"S-Comm" Should Be Ended, Not Extended Say Diverse Voices at Press Conference

Labor, Faith and Human Rights leaders join immigrants pledge resistance to the insecurity raised by new enforcement program

speakersMay 10, 2012 BOSTON"Any decent detective will tell you that this is the antithesis of what we need," said retired New Jersey police detective Robert Cole today at a press conference denouncing the implementation of "Secure Communties," an immigration enforcement program that automatically shares the fingerprints of anyone arrested with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Board Chair of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Cole noted that a  major impediment to effective crime fighting is lack of community trust, and Secure Communities shatters that trust, bringing immigration enforcement directly into regular local police practices.

Other speakers, including Cristina Aguilera, Campaign Organizer at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, who criticized "S-Comm" for ensnaring hardworking mothers and fathers in deportation proceedings. "Nationwide, half of those deported through 'Secure Communities' have not been accused of serious crimes," Ms. Aguilera said, "And in Boston, almost half of those deported have no criminal conviction whatsoever — 49%."

Worse yet, the program threatens not only those who are innocent of crimes, but also those who are victims of crime.The latter point was expounded by Mary Lauby, Executive Director of Jane Doe, Inc., which represents a network of 60 statewide service providers to victims of domestic violence. "The true impact of this program is to create INSECURE communities," Ms.Lauby said, noting that it would make victims afraid to contact police. That concern was confirmed by both Nancy Kelly, Managing Attorney of Immigration Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services, and domestic violence survivor Janet Lopez, member of  REACH Beyond Domestic Violence. As both noted, local police and the federal government had previously recognized the traumatic trap suffered by domestic violence victims. "But the fear of deportation is often instilled in battered women by their abusers," Ms. Kelly said, and that fear is now more real because secure communities has the effect of "making local police an arm of immigration enforcement." Ms. Lopez, who had suffered domestic violence since the age of three, confirmed that point, saying "With this new program, who is going to call the police? I never would have, and now my children might be orphans." (A similar point was also made about worker abuses by Manuel, an immigrant who chose anonymity to speak about cases of wage theft).

Other speakers at the crowded press conference, held in the large room at SEIU 615, also spoke of larger problems of which Secure Communities is one part. Laura Rotolo, Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, noted that it is a "test case" in the FBI's creation of a huge database, rife with errors, on every U.S. resident. "If you are a citizen, there's also reason to be afraid," she said.

Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente, and State Representative Denise Provost, of Somerville, both denounced the larger criminalization of hardworking immigrant mothers and fathers that the program reinforces. "I deplore the use of any law to break up families," said Rep. Provost, noting the two cases that had come to her attention of U.S. citizen children left motherless because of deportation.
Ms. Montes went further, promising to keep fighting at all levels of government to turn back "Secure Communities" and resolve the plight of immigrants in the U.S.

The press conference also included opening remarks by SEIU Massachusetts State Council Executive Director Harris Gruman, who  called for a return to immigration reform, and comments by Reverend Rev. John B. Katende who offered an opening prayer, and closing comments by Alexander Levering Kern, Executive Director of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, who ended with rallying calls for "No S-Comm!" because "the time has come for us to make some noise for justice."

NOTE: Attendees also supported a rally organized tomorrow by the Just Communities/Comunidades Justas Campaign before the JFK Federal Building on  from 11am to 1pm.