Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TONIGHT: Homeland Security Hosts DC Area Hearings on Deportation Program - Will MD Officials Speak Out?

UPDATE: Washington Post coverage of the DHS hearings:  "Maria Bolanos told [ICE]... that she was arrested after calling police in Maryland during a fight with her partner.... Now she’s facing deportation because her fingerprints were shared with immigration authorities and she was identified as an illegal immigrant as part of the Secure Communities program....  200 people walked out of the meeting, chanting “end it, don’t amend it.” 

Earlier this week, my friends at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee alerted me to tonight's DC-area Department of Homeland Security public hearing. DHS is gathering input on their controversial "Secure Communities" deportation program (see email alert below). We discuss what the fuss is all about in greater depth below, but first a little bit of political background on the issue.

At issue is DHS's program asking local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they detain. People flagged as present without documentation could be instantly whisked away by immigration officials (note: currently deportation occurs whether or not they are guilty of the crime in question -- they may even be the crime victim!)

Democratic Governors in Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have ensured their states refused to participate in "Secure Communities." Will Maryland officials follow?

These are the formative years where we will be welcoming the growing (and increasingly politically active) Latino community to the Democratic Party. Karl Rove has long been known to find the Republicans' new love for nativism to be politically foolish. Indeed, he's now back on the air trying to woo Latino voters with television ads trashing Obama en Español.

They are clearly attempting to the turn the attention away from their race-baiting on the immigration issue, with this new distraction:
Conservative groups are making a major new push to woo Latino voters by running a series of expensive Spanish-language television ads in key Hispanic markets that depict a Latina mother turning against President Obama for his failures to halt unemployment and to reduce the national debt.
Amusing wordplay, given that Republicans have been such major contributors to our spending. But Democrats have often responded to GOP minority marketing gimmicks with....... actual policymaking.

Tonight, our public officials have a chance to do it again. Tell Maryland to drop out of Secure Communities and urge DHS to end the program:

Dear David,

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is coming to the DC metro area this Wednesday to hold a hearing on the misleadingly named "Secure Communities" Initiative (S-COMM). That's the same federal department that has forced the controversial deportation program— which was developed by the FBI as a first step toward creating a national biometric identification scheme—on local jurisdictions across the country, including those that have rejected it, such as Arlington,VA; Washington, DC; and Baltimore and Montgomery County, MD.

After misrepresenting S-COMM, breaking up thousands of families over offenses as trivial as broken tail lights, and prompting a humanitarian crisis around the country, DHS now claims it wants community input. People across the region are mobilizing to make sure DHS hears their input in no uncertain terms.

    Stand Against S-COMM: Wednesday, August 24

    March at 5 p.m.
    St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church
    3304 Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA
    Near Clarendon Metro (Orange Line)

    Hearing 6–8 p.m.
    George Mason Law School at Founders Hall
    3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA

    Invite friends on Facebook

In an effort to dampen growing opposition to anti-immigrant profiling, DHS created a task force to explore ways of improving the program. At hearings across the country, protestors have demanded that the task force resign and that DHS and DOJ end the program.

On Wednesday, tell the Department of Homeland Security it's time to end S-COMM. Stand with us and spread the word with your friends and neighbors. Rally on Wednesday against biometric identification forced on local jurisdictions by unaccountable federal agencies.

Thank you for your interest in defending the rights of all Americans.

Similar hearings across the country have drawn protests from Latino and immigrant rights advocates. The Washington Examiner (of course) wrote yesterday:
The DHS task force conducting the hearing at George Mason University's Founders Hall between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. held similar meetings in Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Chicago, 10 protesters were arrested after about 200 walked out of the hearing chanting, "Terminate the program! No more lies," according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.
Activists said they thought the public input meetings were only a formality for DHS and would not stop the DHS from going forward with the program.
As Germantown Patch's Sebastian Montes summarized:
Since its inception in 2009, it has spread to more than 1,400 municipal and county jurisdictions across the country. Montgomery County and Baltimore City are the only Maryland jurisdictions in which it has not been implemented. It will take effect in Montgomery on Sept. 27. It is expected to go nationwide by 2013....
Critics in Maryland have highlighted cases where families have been broken up over trivial offenses and domestic violence victims faced deportation after calling the police for assistance:
Bolanos was detained by immigration officials after she received an arrest warrant for selling phone cards without a license. That charge stemmed from an earlier call for help she made to police during a domestic dispute. An officer who responded saw phone cards on her table and, believing she was selling them illegally, issued a summons. The charge was soon dropped, but by then Bolanos's fingerprints had gone to ICE via the Secure Communities program, and she was detained and put into deportation proceedings.
It is these types of complaints that spurred both DHS's public hearings, as well as some changes to the program. In his article, Montes describes a series of reforms, including measures to: combat the deportation of crime victims, seek community input on how to avoid focusing on minor crimes, and guidelines to help immigration officials exercise their discretion to spot good candidates for deportation (???):
In Montgomery County, immigrant advocates and some County Councilmembers tried to resist its implementation. ICE’s latest reforms have eased some but not all of their doubts.

"It’s a step in the right direction, but I’m not 100 percent sure that this goes far enough,” said Councilwoman Nancy Navarro, who led the push against Secure Communities in Montgomery County. "I’m just concerned that these are issues that should have been considered when the program began."
As regards my native Montgomery County -- back in April, the Examiner ran a story headlined, Leggett says he plans to fight feds over illegal-immigration program:
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says he would pursue legal action against the Obama administration if the federal government forces Montgomery to implement a deportation program for violent illegal immigrants.

"I'm opposed to it," Leggett told The Washington Examiner....
Implementation is slated to begin soon. Let's get to it!

P.S. I really want the GOP to own anti-Latino policymaking for a generation - but it is harder to achieve if our whole Democratic family is not on board! Remember, the California GOP suffered for years as the Latino voting population mushroomed, especially after their years of anti-immigrant policies. We ought to be able to make the GOP suffer for their years of bigotry on GLBT issues, too!

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