Dragnet Nation

The Secure Communities program was always an intended tool for the war in Eastasia. Or was it Eurasia?

There is no societal benefit to family separation. CC Photo by cfpereda.

There is no societal benefit to family separation. CC Photo by cfpereda.

The Obama administration continues to use Orwellian language in its quest to take the over-reaching Secure Communities nationwide. This pilot fingerprinting program would create a deportation dragnet for undocumented immigrants around the country. After struggling to nail down memoranda of agreement in states like Illinois and New York, and counties like Arlington, Virginia, the administration is now saying that local governments can’t demand to be exempt from this program. Rather than listening to mounting concerns from state and local officials, it has dropped the premise that states, counties, and cities can opt out of this program.

Secure Communities hit a roadblock recently, when a judge ordered it release documents detailing its relationship with the FBI. Now the government is making the ICE-FBI relationship official, and has canceled its previously signed agreements with state governors. From the New Mexico Independent:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent out letters to 39 governors Friday, terminating all existing memoranda of agreement between states and ICE for the Secure Communities program, which shares fingerprints collected by state and local law enforcement to deport criminals. The letters say simply that such MOAs are not necessary to enforce the program.

ICE’s letters made the claim that it doesn’t have to ask for the information if it can get it from another federal agency. Here’s an excerpt from the letter sent to Delaware Governor Jack Markell [pdf]:

ICE has determined that an MOA is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities in any jurisdiction. Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part. For this reason, ICE has decided to terminate all existing Secure Communities MOAs.

This announcement, made last Friday, shows that ICE is being lazy in trying to justify its own powers. By claiming that it can simply share the information that the FBI gets, it avoids any obligation to meet the needs of the actual communities the agency says it wants to secure. Those communities have been calling for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants for years, and have fought back this enforcement-only approach.

My fear is that President Obama’s penchant for seeking the political center of every argument will render him unable to take a stand for humane immigration reform if and when such debate in Congress happens. As of now, it’s hard to imagine it happening before 2013 at the least. Until then, there could be millions more deportations. And, millions more undocumented immigrants could wind up spending the rest of their lives on the underground economy.