WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent a joint letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson expressing concerns that the Department of Homeland Security has continued the failed immigration enforcement initiative – Secure Communities – “albeit with a new name.”
The embattled Secure Communities program, which uses state and local resources to find and transfer individuals to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, faced resistance from numerous localities and civil rights organizations across the country, as well as ongoing litigation. The Department of Homeland Security announced on November 20, 2014, that Secure Communities would be discontinued and replaced with a new Priority Enforcement Program. However, since the memorandum announcing the Priority Enforcement Program, the lawmakers note that little has been done to transition away from the aggressive tactics characterized by Secure Communities.
“DHS has merely made minor stylistic changes to detainer requests and implemented those stylistic changes in jurisdictions that sought to limit their involvement with SCOMM,” the letter reads. “There is little evidence that ICE is following the directives and priorities laid out in your memoranda, or that there is any oversight or accountability within the agency to follow the policies you established.”
“We are all safer when local law enforcement agencies have the trust and ability to work with immigrant communities,” Sanders said. “Victims of crime and domestic violence should not be afraid of being deported for calling the police. Giving a very problematic program a new name is not enough. We need new policies to ensure that immigrant communities are treated fairly.”
“SCOMM stitched fear into immigrant communities across the country, and unfairly made local authorities responsible for part of our nation’s immigration enforcement system,” Grijalva said. “ICE’s aggressive pursuit of deportations through SCOMM came at the expense of vital trust in law enforcement for local communities. The promise of the PEP program was to end that scourge and begin to mend what damage was done by SCOMM, and that is a promise Secretary Johnson must deliver on.”
The full text of the letter is available here.