“Secure Communities” Program Adopted by Sheriff Terrorizing Local Immigrant Community

The “Secure Communities” program being adopted in local counties across the United States has already caused much controversy in its short history. The implementation of Secure Communities by Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh has brought great distraught to several families in Champaign and Urbana. Pressure is mounting for communities to abandon this program.

Secure Communities was initiated under the Bush administration in 2008, but has been continued by President Obama. Despite adopting the campaign slogan “Yes We Can” (or “Si Se Puede”) first made popular by César Chávez and the United Farm Workers, Obama has deported one million immigrants since entering office. Secure Communities has two objectives: to send fingerprints of immigrant arrestees in local jails to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and to place an immediate 48 hour “hold” on detainees for ICE to determine if they want to obtain them for deportation proceedings.   

The original intent of Secure Communities was to target criminals who were the “worst of the worst,” but according to a report by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) put out earlier this year based on ICE’s own statistics, more than three-quarters (77%) of those arrested by ICE through Secure Communities had no previous conviction.

Secure Communities made national headlines when a story ran in the New York Times, titled “Documents Reveal Pressure to Comply with Program to Deport Immigrants” (3/26/2011), exposing plans to force Secure Communities into Chicago, where there is a sanctuary ordinance. Secure Communities was being moved into in the collar counties surrounding Cook County to conduct what one ICE official called a “full court press” pressuring Chicago to go along with the program. Quinn placed an immediate freeze on the program in Illinois so that no more counties could join. New York and Massachusetts followed soon after.  

By this time, Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh had already signed up for Secure Communities. According to documents obtained by a research group looking into the program locally, Captain Tim Voges attended a brief 15-minute meeting on August 25, 2010 where ICE representatives introduced the program. “Post 9-11,” Voges reported, “the federal government had identified a breakdown in communications between the local law enforcement community and the federal authorities.”  According to an email sent out by Voges, as of October 4, 2010 the Sheriff’s department was now “on-line” so that all future arrestee fingerprints would be sent to ICE.

The Sheriff clandestinely adopted this controversial program, failing to notify the Champaign County Board or seek its approval. Our research group spoke with the Public Defender’s office and several local attorneys, but none of them had heard anything about it. Apparently, even the Sheriff’s office lacks a basic understanding. When our group took a tour of the satellite jail this last March 2011, Sergeant M.K. Johnson told us it was 72 hours, not 48, that he was required to keep individuals.

The way Secure Communities is supposed to work, anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant has an automatic hold placed on them when they are booked into the jail. Their fingerprints are sent off to ICE for a background check. Immigration then has 48 business hours to come pick the person up if they want them. If they do not arrive, the individual is to be released. Since our research group has convened, we have identified three cases that illustrate how Secure Communities has been loosely practiced in Champaign County.

The first is the story of Juan Mendez [all names withheld] who claims he was mistakenly identified as being involved in a fight in Champaign. A group of guys had been in the fight, one of them also named Juan, who later left. Juan Mendez says he joined the group after the incident. When police arrived, they were looking for a “Juan,” and they arrested him. After being booked, he was told he had a federal hold placed on him. He says he was threatened with deportation if he posted bond. He subsequently spent four months in the county jail. He finally took a plea bargain. His lengthy stay at the jail was a significant cost to Champaign County taxpayers, not to mention a serious violation of his civil and human rights.

The second story is of Alonzo, who was arrested one Saturday for a DUI. Born in Mexico, he was brought to the United States when he was four years old and has never been back to his country of origin. Now 22, he grew up in Urbana, went to Urbana High School, and has a one year-old daughter with an African American girlfriend who also grew up locally. Alonzo says he was also told that if he posted bond he would be picked up by immigration authorities. His family was conflicted, but went the following Thursday to pay bail. They had to wait an additional 48 hours, excluding the weekend. He was set to be released on Monday afternoon. During this period, the family was terribly frightened that Alonzo was going to be taken away. On Monday morning, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Alonzo was picked up by ICE and transported to their holding facility at the Jefferson County jail. He was twice transported back and forth to Chicago. He was finally released that Thursday after posting bond and returned home to his family.

The most recent case is of Maria, a single mother of two boys, 8 and 18 years old. On Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2011, she was on the way to pick up one of her sons from soccer practice when she accidentally rear-ended a car at the four-way stop at Race and Windsor. Although there was no damage to the cars, Urbana police were called. Officers Elizabeth Ranck, Brian Willfong responded, and Sergeant Adam Chacon later showed up to serve as a translator. Maria says she asked police to call her son, but was denied. She was arrested and booked at the county jail where her fingerprints were sent to ICE. When she was told there was a federal hold, she planned for deportation.

I received a call about Maria the following Wednesday afternoon. A judge had agreed to have her released on her own recognizance. It had been more than 48 hours, ICE had not arrived for her, and yet she was still being held in the jail.

I called now Lieutenant Johnson at the jail. I explained that Maria’s 48 hours had expired. “This is new to me too,” Johnson replied. He was prepared to hold her indefinitely until ICE showed up. I told him he was subjecting Champaign County taxpayers to a potential law suit. He agreed to take my number and call back.

I got a call from Sheriff Walsh himself about 30 minutes later. “I want to thank you,” he said. I asked if he understood how the 48 hour hold was supposed to work. “Mistakes happen,” he told me. He agreed to release Maria after being processed.

Maria ran home in the rain from the satellite jail on Lierman in East Urbana to her apartment in Champaign. After four days in jail, she was finally home with her two boys who embraced her as she walked in the front door.

These few cases indicate that this program is only creating increasingly insecure communities throughout Champaign-Urbana. Other records show an increasing number of immigrant arrestees being held in the Champaign County jail. With the Sheriff now stumping for an expansion of the satellite jail, we can guess that the new bed space will be used to hold local immigrants.


Where is the County Board on this?

Where is the County Board on the ill-named "Secure Communities" program? There have been victims of domestic violence detained & deported under this program. The Champaign County Board needs to act swiftly to stop the counties participation in this costly program. Champaign County's public funds should not be spent on unconstitutionally detaining our neighbors.

Local government must lead in policy, and excercise oversight

Brian, thanks for the great article.

In this instance, the County Board had no say in a decision that runs counter to practice in most of Illinois. Governor Quinn decided against supporting this program because it's seriously flawed. As reported in the New York Times on May 5th of this year:

"Statistics from the immigration agency showed that nearly one-third of immigrants deported from Illinois under the program had no criminal convictions. It is a civil violation for an immigrant to be in the United States illegally; it is not a crime.

“Illinois signed up to help I.C.E. remove criminals convicted of serious crimes, but based on the statistics from I.C.E., that’s not what was happening,” said Brie Callahan, the governor’s spokeswoman.

Unfortunately, the reaction of your Dan Walsh is typical of many law enforcement officers who are too charmed by the glory and power of federal authority. County and municipal governments need to take the lead in policy decisions, or the power vacuum will be filled as it was in Champaign County.


U.S. Deports 46K Parents With Citizen Kids in Just Six Months

by Seth Freed Wessler

Between January and June of 2011, the United States carried out more than 46,000 deportations of the parents of U.S.-citizen children, according to previously unreleased federal data obtained by Colorlines.com’s publisher, the Applied Research Center. The figures reflect a striking increase in the rate of removals of parents and raise serious concerns about the impact of these deportations on children, many of whom are left behind.

Congress demanded two years ago that the Department of Homeland Security begin to compile this data by July 2010, but it had not been made available to the public. The Applied Research Center obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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The data on parental deportations does not reveal how many children each of these parents had, or whether their children remained in the U.S. or left with their mothers and fathers. However, the Applied Research Center has also found a disturbing number of children languishing in foster care and separated from their parents for long periods. After a year-long national investigation, we estimate there are at least 5,100 children in foster care who face barriers to family reunification because their mother or father is detained or deported. That number could reach as high as 15,000 in the next five years, at the current rate of growth.

The rising number of parental deportations has corresponded with an overall increase in immigration enforcement under the Obama administration; in fiscal year 2011, a record 397,000 people were deported. Yet parental deportation has also increased as a proportion of all removals. Between 1998 and 2007, the last period for which similar data is available, approximately 8 percent of almost 2.2 million removals were parents of U.S.-citizen children. The new data, released to the Applied Research Center in September, reveals that more than 22 percent of all people deported in the first half of this year were parents of citizen kids.

If rates of parental deportation remain steady in the year to come, the country will remove about as many parents in just two years as it did in the ten-year period ICE tracked previously. The number of children of non-citizens placed in the U.S. child welfare system will no doubt shoot up as well. Already, according to our research, one in 16 kids in Los Angeles’ child welfare system are the children of detained or deported parents. Certain jurisdictions on the U.S.-Mexico border and at least one Florida county included in our field research had even higher rates.

The Obama administration has accepted the deportation of parents as an acceptable consequence of its immigration enforcement policy. In an interview aired on PBS’ “Frontline” last month, Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s top advisor on immigration, said that unless Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill to provide a path to lawful status for undocumented immigrants, the deportation of parents will continue.

“At the end of the day, when you have immigration law that’s broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen,” said Munoz.

dpr_parents_deported.gif“Even if the law is executed with perfection, there will be parents separated from their children,” Munoz added. “It is a result of having a broken system of laws.”

The Obama administration has been clear that ICE holds vast power to determine who it will and will not detain and deport. In July, ICE director John Morton released a memo affirming that agents have discretion in enforcement decisions. The memo instructed agents to consider “whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent” when determining who to detain or deport.

Yet, Munoz’s comments and the data we’ve obtained suggest that indiscriminate deportation of parents may be an inevitable result of a rapidly growing immigration-enforcement juggernaut. It is less a matter of a broken system than of the Obama administration’s very intentional policy of deporting 400,000 people a year.

Parents Return to Find Their Kids

In October, the New York Times reported that almost half—48 percent—of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. arrived before 2000. Long-term residents, who are more likely to have children with U.S. citizenship, are increasingly the targets of federal immigration enforcement.

Indeed, the flow of immigrants crossing over the U.S.-Mexico border has declined in the last several years. And of the majority of the diminishing numbers of people still picked up crossing the border have already lived in the U.S. In 2010, 56 percent of people caught at the border had been deported before, up from 44 percent in 2005. Advocates say many of those who are returning are coming back to be with their children, who were left behind when they were deported.

These long-term residents of the U.S. are targeted by a federal deportation policy that relies increasingly on local police. A controversial program called Secure Communities, which has elicited protest from governors in three states, now turns a traffic stop or other run-in with police into a path to deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains that parents who are deported have control over what happens to their children. “The parent can decide whether to have the child leave with them or stay in the U.S.,” an ICE spokesperson wrote in an email to the Applied Research Center, explaining the new data.

Yet, as our research on the intersections of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system shows, that is not always the case. Detained and deported parents regularly face the prospect of permanently losing their parental rights because their children are in the foster care system. These parents are often left out of decisions about where their children should live.

According to policy advocates, ICE has for years said that it does not believe significant numbers of families are separated in this way.

Emily Butera, senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a policy advocacy organization in Washington, said, “ICE tends to say, ‘We think these are isolated incidents.’ Everyone we’ve talked to from DHS and the ICE say that they can’t do anything unless they know how big the problem is.”

Our research suggests the problem is substantial. In just six months, 46,486 parents of an unknown number of U.S.-citizen children were removed. According to our national study, thousands of their children face extended and sometimes permanent separation from their parents.

The data on parents of U.S.-citizens deported is overdue.

In 2009, after Homeland Security’s inspector general released earlier data on the number of deported parents, Congress directed ICE to “begin collecting data on the deportation of parents of U.S.-born children no later than July 1, 2010” and to report that data at least semi-annually. Despite these demands, no data has been released to the public until now.

The new data suggest that parents living in certain parts of the country are particularly likely to be deported. The breadth of removals includes not only known deportation hubs like Arizona, Texas and California, but also parts of the South and Midwest. The ICE office covering Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina ordered large numbers of deportations, as did the one based in Chicago and covering seven states in the Midwest. These geographic trends provide further evidence of the changing orientation of immigration enforcement; it is moving increasingly to communities in the interior of the country.

As immigration enforcement spreads across the country and more parents of United States citizen children are deported, the collateral effects are likely only to grow.


Secure Communities Fuels FBI’s Expanding Surveillance System

November 10, 2011
12:21 PM

CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights, National Day Laborer Organization Network and Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic

New Documents Show Secure Communities Fuels FBI’s Rapidly Expanding Surveillance System While Ignoring States’ Concerns
New Documents on Secure Communities and the FBI’s Next Generation Identification System Show ICE and the FBI Riding Roughshod Over Local Law Enforcement Agencies

NEW YORK - November 10 - Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic released internal government documents concerning the controversial Secure Communities program (S-Comm), newly obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Advocates say the documents show that S-Comm, already beleaguered with calls for termination, caused serious internal debate within the FBI at the same time that it served as pretext for the agency to rapidly expand its Next Generation Identification (NGI) initiative, which seeks to collect and distribute massive amounts of biometric information on citizens and noncitizens alike. An annotated index to the documents is available here.

The new documents reveal that FBI Assistant Director Jerome Pender expressed doubts about S-Comm’s effect on the FBI’s relationship with states and localities, and described the FBI’s position in the S-Comm controversy as “being stuck in the middle of a nuclear war.” Pender wrote: “I don’t see how we can use [fingerprint] data in a way the owner explicitly bans. This could cause the whole CJIS model [of information sharing between the FBI and states and localities] to implode.” (Email chain between Deputy Assistant Director of CJIS’s Operations Branch, Jerome Pender, CJIS Assistant Director, Daniel Roberts, Deputy Assistant Director, Stephen Morris, and other FBI officials, May 10, 2011, FBI-SC-FPL-00487-488).

However, the FBI continued to ignore state and local partners’ demands to limit the use of their data and instead continued to press for S-Comm to be mandatory and expanded data sharing to other domestic agencies and foreign governments.

Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Sunita Patel, “It is now crystal clear that the FBI is using Secure Communities to experiment on biometric-based surveillance. In pushing for S-Comm and interoperability to be mandatory, the FBI has prioritized collecting personal biometric data on citizens and non-citizens alike for its massive database ahead of the interests of its state and local partners. This is bad policy and no way to operate a federal agency.”

According to the documents, the FBI “recognizes a need to collect as much biometric data as possible . . . and to make this information accessible to all levels of law enforcement, including International agencies.” Accordingly, it “continues to work aggressively to build biometric databases that are comprehensive and international in scope.” (Interoperability Initiatives Unit, FBI CJIS, December 2010, SC-FBI-FPL-1143-1159, at 1143.)

Said Jessica Karp of NDLON, “The rise of the FBI’s surveillance system places all of our civil rights at risk. As Secure Communities breaks apart the sacred bond of immigrant families, NGI undermines the basic rights we hold as sacred in a democracy. It’s clear that the FBI and ICE’s pursuit of massive personal biometric data collection as a goal in itself tramples on the rights of individuals and states. Secure Communities needs to be ended before more are trapped in its dragnet.”

Said Sonia Lin of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Cardozo School of Law, “In its support for mandatory S-Comm and push to expand NGI, the FBI has ignored serious concerns about community policing, the burden on local and state partners, privacy rights, and the increased risk of racial profiling.”

Visit CCR’s NDLON v. ICE case page, or the joint website http://UncovertheTruth.org, for the text of the FOIA request, the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, other documents obtained through the litigation and all other relevant documents.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit http://www.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.

The mission of the National Day Laborer Organization Network is to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S. by unifying and strengthening its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Visit http://www.ndlon.org

The Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was founded in 2008 to provide quality pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants facing deportation. Under the supervision of experienced practitioners, law students in the Clinic represent individuals facing deportation and community-based organizations in public advocacy, media and litigation projects. Visit http://www.cardozo.yu.edu/immigrationjustice

ICE Continues Effort to Hide Legal Basis of Secure Communities

November 15, 2011
11:05 AM

CONTACT: Rights Groups

B. Loewe, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, (773) 791-4668
Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, press@ccrjustice.org
Sonia Lin, Cardozo School of Law Immigration Justice Clinic, (212)790-0213, slin@yu.edu

ICE Appeals in Secure Communities Case; Continues Effort to Hide Program’s Legal Basis
Refusal to Honor Court Order Heightens Concerns over Broader Implications of Memo in Question

NEW YORK - November 15 - Late yesterday, defendants in the case NDLON v ICE filed an appeal and emergency stay to block a court order requiring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to make public a legal memorandum detailing the agency’s rationale for converting Secure Communities into a mandatory program.

Federal district court Judge Shira Scheindlin had ordered ICE to produce the memorandum by November 14. Advocates will continue to argue for immediate release of this key memo. It is the only document produced to date that, although heavily redacted, appears to comprehensively describe the legal authority claimed by ICE in support of its position mandating state and local participation in the program.

Said Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), “While ICE has sprinted to implement S-Comm across the country, they've done the opposite to comply with court orders that would bring transparency to the program. The fact that the agency is fighting so hard to prevent the public's access to this key document forces the question of what ICE is hiding.”

Instead of complying, ICE is challenging Judge Scheindlin’s October 24 Order which stated, “Once an agency has adopted a legal analysis as its own…that analysis becomes the government’s ‘working law,’ and the public ‘can only be enlightened by knowing what the [agency] believes the law to be.’”

Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Sunita Patel, “ICE’s on-going strategy of delaying release of important Secure Communities documents must be stopped. Lack of transparency continues to prevent needed scrutiny of Secure Communities. The public deserves access to the program’s full scope and underlying rationale.”

Said Sonia Lin of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Cardozo School of Law, “States and localities around the country have opposed Secure Communities and sought ways to limit the impact of the program on the safety and security of their communities. The public needs the truth about this massive deportation program now.”

The lawsuit was originally brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organization Network.

Visit CCR’s NDLON v. ICE case page or the joint website, http://UncovertheTruth.org, for the text of the FOIA request, the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, and all other relevant documents.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit http://www.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.

The mission of the National Day Laborer Organization Network is to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S. by unifying and strengthening its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Visit http://www.ndlon.org

The Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was founded in 2008 to provide quality pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants facing deportation. Under the supervision of experienced practitioners, law students in the Clinic represent individuals facing deportation and community-based organizations in public advocacy, media and litigation projects. Visit http://www.cardozo.yu.edu/immigrationjustice

InSecure Communities Forum TOMORROW

The C-U Immigration Forum is hosting a community forum tomorrow, Dec. 1st at 7pm at the Champaign Public Library. This is the perfect opportunity to lend your voice against the Secure Communities program in Champaign County. At the forum, speakers will provide context and individuals will give first-hand accounts. Questions and comments are encouraged.

Learn more on their website:


Facebook event is here: http://www.facebook.com/events/189329604482384/

80 Civil Rights Orgs Call on FBI Quit Facilitating ICE Abuses

March 8, 2012
10:36 AM

CONTACT: National Day Laborer Organizing Network

B. Loewe, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), (773) 791-4668; bloewe@ndlon.org
Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, 212-614-6449, press@ccrjustice.org
Sonia Lin, Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, 212-790-0213, slin@yu.edu
Over 80 Civil Rights Organizations Call on FBI to End Facilitation of ICE's "Secure Communities" Deportation Program
Groups Demand FBI Address Concerns from Governors and Other High Level State and Local Officials that Program Undermines Public Safety

NATIONWIDE - March 8 - Today, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and over 80 other civil and immigrant rights organizations sent a letter to the FBI demanding that it end its facilitation of ICE’s Secure Communities deportation program (S-Comm).

The letter charges that S-Comm threatens public safety, encourages racial profiling and undermines community policing by turning local police departments into gateways to deportation. Under S-Comm, the FBI takes all fingerprints submitted by local police for criminal background checks and automatically forwards the prints to federal immigration officials, regardless of whether individual has been convicted of a crime or of the severity of the charge.

Last summer, the governors of New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts requested that S-Comm be delayed or deactivated in their states. The FBI, as the agency that manages the federal criminal fingerprint database, has the ability to grant the Governors’ request, but thus far has not provided an official response.

Today’s letter calls upon the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board to recommend that the FBI not forward fingerprints to S-Comm without the consent of local and state officials. The Committee will consider requests from the public at its biannual meeting this summer.

Jessica Karp, Staff Attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “The FBI represents itself as a partner to state and local agencies. True partnership requires that the FBI address the serious concerns raised by state and local officials who have been forced to participate in ICE’s Secure Communities deportation program without their consent and despite serious risks to public safety.”

Sunita Patel, Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “the FBI has deliberately veiled its involvement in Secure Communities to avoid public scrutiny. Now we ask that the agency to be held accountable by its stakeholders and the numerous communities around the country that simply ask for this law enforcement program—the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s immigration enforcement efforts—to be voluntary.”

Sonia Lin, Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, said, “The DOJ's recent findings of discriminatory policing in places like Maricopa AZ and East Haven CT make it even more important for the FBI to limit its involvement in S-Comm.”

The letter is available at this link:

The proposal that the groups are submitting for the FBI advisory panel’s consideration is here:


For more information:

New Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes FBI Role in Controversial Secure Communities Deportation Program, at http://uncoverthetruth.org/featured/new-documents-reveal-behind-the-scen...

RESTORING COMMUNITY: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s Failed “Secure Communities” Program, at http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/

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