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ACLU Applauds Providence Efforts to Opt Out of “Secure Communities” Program

Posted: February 23, 2011|Category: Immigration

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Shortly after Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced plans to register the state and local law enforcement agencies into the federal Secure Communities program, the ACLU and other organizations wrote a letter to Providence city officials urging them to opt out of the program. Yesterday, Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Pare told a City Council committee that he was seeking to do just that. The ACLU applauded city officials for their efforts.

Secure Communities (S-Comm, for short) is a federal program that checks if criminal suspects arrested by police are subject to deportation or other immigration enforcement.  Under this program, fingerprints of arrested individuals are checked against not only state and federal criminal databases, but also numerous immigration databases as well.

The RI ACLU has asserted that S-Comm will undermine, rather than enhance, public safety in neighborhoods.  The ACLU argues that S-Comm will create fear and mistrust between immigrant communities and police officials, often because victims and witnesses to crimes would be less willing to approach police if they knew that their immigration status or that of a loved one would be investigated and acted upon.  In a letter to federal immigration officials requesting to opt out of the program, Commissioner Pare echoed those concerns, and stated that participation in the program would "undermin[e] the city’s community policing model and risk[] the public safety.”

At the City Council meeting, the ACLU also expressed concern that S-Comm would encourage racial profiling by police, targeting individuals of a certain appearance or language proficiency level with pretextual arrests in order to run their fingerprints through the federal immigrant databases.

In recent months, the federal government has sent out mixed signals on whether local communities can opt out of the program. The ACLU will continue to closely monitor this issue.

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