DC responds to S-Comm activation with legislation to limit ICE's reach
In response to news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) planned to implement the Secure Communities deportation program in DC on June 5th, the DC Council unanimously passed emergency legislation to limit ICE's access to people being held in DC police stations and jails. In doing so, DC joined Cook County, IL, Santa Clara, CA and several other communities who have recently adopted similar policies.
A broad coalition of community, faith, and labor organizations had been working with the Council to draft the legislation, which was introduced by Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At-large), and will limit Immigration and Customs Enforcement's use of District facilities and equipment and also narrows S-Comm’s deportation dragnet by only responding to immigration detention requests for individuals who are over 18 and have been convicted of a dangerous crime. Last fall the permanent version of the act, the Immigration Detainer Compliance Amendment, was unanimously co-sponsored by all DC councilmembers. The act builds upon the Mayor’s Order 2011-174 (October 19, 2011) that prohibits all public safety agencies from inquiring about individuals’ immigration status or transmitting information about immigration status.
"Police rely on the trust of those community members that their immigration status will not be threatened by their cooperation in local law enforcement investigations," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said. "Secure Communities jeopardizes that trust."Gray expressed disappointment that the Federal government moved forward with implementing Secure Communities in DC over the objections of local elected leadership.
Nikki Daruwala, Executive Director, DC Jobs with Justice commented: "The passage of the Immigration Detainer Emergency Compliance Act is a major triumph for working people in the District. It speaks directly to the fundamental importance of keeping our city vibrant and diverse while protecting and advancing the rights of all its residents. Kudos to the DC Council for coming together in a timely manner to pass this vital piece of legislation."
DC Jobs with Justice played a strong role in convening the coalition to protect immigrants' rights, which came together in 2009 when DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced that she had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Deptartment of Homeland Security (DHS) to bring the controversial "S-Comm" program to DC. The coaltition suceeded in winning support of the entire DC Council in opposing the program, forcing Chief Lanier to rescmind the MOU, making DC the first community to withdraw from the program. Last August, DHS announced that the program would no longer be voluntary, and that would plan to roll it out in every jurisdiction in the country by 2013. The coalition jumped back into action to begin researching strategies to limit ICE's reach in the city and protect the rights of DC residents.
Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says, "We're proud to live in a city with a bright line guarding against unjust deportation policies that erode trust, divide our communities, and endanger our families. DC has joined a growing trend of local governments that care about protecting the safety and rights of their residents. When DHS Secretary Napolitano spread S-Comm throughout the country, it triggered a movement that is growing stronger by the day to resist and overcome the criminalization of immigrants.”