End S-COMM: The first step to restoring our rights & getting accountability

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When our communities demand public safety and full rights, what part of "opt out" doesn't the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) understand?

Over the last two years, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and other DHS officials have made contradictory statements that local governments and their police departments can opt out of the controversial "Secure Communities," or S-COMM, program. Then without logic or explanation, DHS/ICE immediately retracts the option, declaring that collaboration is mandatory.

And now there is a flurry of news stemming from the release of materials from DHS that show the lack of transparency and misinformation about the program and provisions for opting out of S-COMM. The materials were released after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic.

This is all further evidence of the need to end S-COMM.

In NNIRR's latest report, Injustice for All: the Rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime, we describe how S-COMM and other immigration policing jeopardize and undermine our communities' right to health care, safety, civil and labor rights, civil liberties, freedom from fear, and equality. ICE-police collaboration thrives on and fuels new forms of racial discrimination and racial profiling.
We call for an end to these programs and support the call for a moratorium on S-COMM that is being raised by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a chorus of groups around the country.
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Disconnect the Problem, Restore Our Rights
Immigration-policing and ICE-police collaboration circumvent due process rights and reinforce racial, ethnic and religious profiling -- all illegal in the U.S.
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Under S-COMM, police send the finger-prints of persons they arrest to DHS to check their immigration status or to see if the arrestee has committed a deportable offense. What's wrong with this picutre? In the flash of a finger-print scan, a person can end up being jailed until DHS can come get her for deportation -- regardless of the charges, without their day in court or a conviction. Families are crushed and forcibly separated from their loved ones as DHS/ICE terrorizes communities.
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Our elected officials can end the flagrant abuses just by disconnecting the line to DHS.
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Different state and local governments are making this their preference on S-COMM. The Illinois House took a step in the right direction and approved a bill to opt out of the Orwellian S-COMM initiative. Back in November 2010, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn first suspended S-COMM to conduct a full review of its impacts. After the legislation passed, Quinn wrote to DHS informing them that IL police would no longer participate in S-COMM.
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Immediately afterwards, DHS turned right around and said no, Illinois must continue sending the finger-prints of arrestees to see if they can be deported.
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The California legislature is moving a similar bill that would allow counties and other localities to also opt out of S-COMM. Community groups and their partners are pressuring local and county officials and police to do the right thing and disconnect from S-COMM.

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These actions are important and build awareness and support for our demand to end immigration policing and ICE-police collaboration at the federal, local, county and state levels.
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DHS's policies, practices and strategies of criminalization have to be rolled back, starting with ending S-COMM -- on their own, through legislative relief such as Illinois's decision, or civil disobedience. DHS's lousy strategy and programs of immigration-police collaboration will not stand.
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The demand for opting out is a good start to restoring rights and instilling confidence in communities that police are there to protect and serve, not detect and deport.
And let's continue the fight to end all punitive immigration policing and collaboration programs.
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* Graphic by the S.F. Print Collective