LA City Council calls for legislation allowing cities to withdraw from Secure Communities program

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution to ensure voluntary participation in Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program that has been seriously questioned because it has jailed and deported undocumented immigrants who have committed no crime.

The resolution (.pdf) states the the city of Los Angeles supports legislation to ensure that “the Secure Communities program is provided to local governments on a voluntary basis and that local governments may unilaterally opt-out of the Secure Communities program at the discretion of their local legislative bodies.”

The text of the resolution adds that Washington, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., have refused to enter Secure Communities because it undermines community policing, public safety and protections against racial profiling.

In an editorial published on Wednesday The New York Times argued:

For years Mr. Obama, like George W. Bush before him, has relentlessly pushed forward with immigration enforcement schemes while failing to give any relief to millions desperate to shed their illegal status.

Real reform requires a comprehensive strategy: stricter enforcement plus legalization for the millions whom it would be foolish to uproot from our society and economy. As Mr. Obama has driven deportations to record levels, he has gotten no closer to fixing a failed system. But he has made Republican hard-liners happy by bolstering the noxious argument that all undocumented immigrants are mere criminals, deportees-in-waiting.

Secure Communities is a fingerprint-sharing system that grants local law enforcement agencies access to FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records as part of the effort to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States. As of June 2010, all 67 Florida counties (.pdf) participate in Secure Communities.

Pablo Alvarado — the director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one of the organizations that filed a Freedom of Information Act in 2010 that left the Department of Homeland Security no other choice but to release Secure Communities data — said on Wednesday:

What started as an effort to uncover the truth about S‐Comm [.pdf] has evolved into a consensus view that the program should be scrapped all together. S-Comm has come to symbolize the President’s broken promises on immigration reform. The fact is that it has not yet been frozen is now being viewed as a betrayal.

Department of Homeland Security data show that under Secure Communities in Florida, from October 2008 through February 2011, more than 14,100 people were arrested or booked into ICE custody. Of that total, more than 4,600 were dangerous criminals, almost 2,500 were low-level detainees and more than 5,100 were non-criminals.

The governor of Massachusetts announced on Monday that the state will not participate in Secure Communities, a move announced over the last few week by the governors of New York and Illinois.