Advocates Encourage Mayor Menino to Withdraw from Secure Communities

Mayor commended for swift attention to program's dangers

mayorMonday, July 11, 2011 BOSTON — The Boston Globe reported today that Mayor Thomas M. Menino will withdraw Boston from "Secure Communities" if the federal government cannot demonstrate that this controversial immigration enforcement program is doing the job it promised. The federal government's own figures belie its claim that the program's main function is to deport dangerous criminals. As the Globe reported last week, "Federal statistics show that 183 of 352 immigrants deported from Boston since 2008 - or about 52 percent - had no criminal record, much higher than the national average of 29 percent."

Advocates throughout the city today commended Mayor Menino for his announcement, expressed in a public letter sent to the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Communities task force.

"Secure Communities destroys the trust that the Boston police has worked so hard to establish with immigrant communities, which are of major importance in combating crime in East Boston and throughout the city," said Frank Ramirez, Executive Director of the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council. "We thank Mayor Menino for his letter to Homeland Security, and we hope he follows it by withdrawing from Secure Communities soon. The problem with the program is that it turns police into de facto ICE agents. No tinkering can fix the damage this causes — it's like polishing a tooth that's rotten at the root."

Heloisa Galvao, Executive Director of the Brazilian Women's Group, located in Allston, echoed those sentiments. "The Globe has reported on stories of innocent young people put into chains and threatened with deportation back to countries they came from as babies. We hear stories like this all the time, and can see the fear spread throughout our community. The police rely on the trust of immigrants to prevent and solve crime, and Secure Communties destroys this trust, making a mockery of its own name. We thank the Mayor for his diligent attention to this vital issue, and hope he withdraws from this dangerous program soon."

Maureen Gallagher,  Policy Director of Jane Doe Inc., also amplified on the program's dangers. "Immigrant victims of sexual and domestic violence are doubly threatened by Secure Communities, first because they are afraid to report crimes in general and second because they face cultural barriers to reporting and seeking services specifically for sexual and domestic violence. We applaud the mayor for looking seriously at the disturbing figures of non-criminal deportations, but we also urge him to consider the victims of  sexual and domestic violence, who can get caught up and deported even as they are trying to protect their very lives. The best way to offer them protection is to end the city's participation in this cruelly misnamed program."

"We join with advocates across the city and throughout the state in applauding the mayor for his letter," said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "We hope he will join Governor Patrick in withdrawing from Secure Communities, thereby ridding Massachusetts of this irreparable program, and taking a step toward the greater security of all our residents."