|Gov. Andrew Cuomo (pic/NYdaily)
The federal Secure Communities program was presented by the Department of Homeland Security as a means to apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. However, the program has come increasingly under fire from law enforcement leaders, elected officials and community leaders alike, as government statistics revealed that over 60 percent of immigrants deported under the program were never convicted of any crime or involved in low-level offenses, like traffic violations. When local police are forced to take on immigration enforcement, trust between law enforcement and the community suffers, compromising effective crime-fighting.
Elected officials and community leaders in New York spoke on a press conference call to applaud Gov. Cuomo’s decision and to discuss the national implications of New York’s suspension of the program.
“I’m very proud to be a New Yorker right now,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), New York State Senator, “Because of the Governor's actions, today victims of domestic violence in counties where Secure Communities was implemented will no longer have to be afraid to report a crime committed against them. Because of this important decision, witnesses of crimes will have no reason to hesitate about whether to go to law enforcement if they saw a crime take place. I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking action and declaring that New York will not stand for policies that separate our families and make our communities less safe."
Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Queens), New York State Assembly Member added, "I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo, NYS Senator Rivera, and all the advocacy groups as Governor Cuomo withdraws New York State’s participation in the Secure Communities Program. As the only Asian-American serving in both houses of the New York State Legislature, I want to applaud Governor Cuomo for his courage in acting on the evidence that has accumulated over the last few months, indicating that this controversial partnership between immigration officials and local law enforcement has not fulfilled its stated mission to deport dangerous criminal immigrants. In my district, one of the largest and most common issues that we have seen are families who are separated by immigration issues. I am fully committed to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo to promote policies that actually make our communities more secure, but we can all agree that S-Comm is not the way."
Governor Cuomo’s decision comes on the heels of increasing pushback against the program. In recent weeks, Gov. Patrick Quinn of Illinois terminated his state’s participation in Secure Communities, California’s Assembly recently passed the Trust Act, which would allow counties to opt out of the program, and DHS’s own Office of the Inspector General announced it will launch an investigation into the program and the government’s claims.
“We need a policy that is pro-family, pro-community policing, pro-public safety,” said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “For too long immigrant communities have suffered from indiscriminate deportation. We are undergoing a deportation epidemic. Gov. Cuomo’s decision will be a springboard toward getting DHS to do the right thing. The most important next step is for communities around the country to unite and press for an end to this program.”
"We applaud Governor Cuomo for his courageous leadership to protect all New Yorkers from the consequences of a misguided immigration enforcement strategy. Secure Communities erodes trust between local government and immigrant communities because community members perceive that local police are funneling immigrants into a broken immigration system. Immigrants, then, are less likely to report crimes, to seek needed services or to serve as witnesses," said Javier H. Valdés, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to protect and improve the immigrant community's relationship with local law enforcement in order to create a stronger and safer New York."
“Secure Communities has served as a dragnet to deport as many immigrants as possible,”said Michelle Fei of the Immigrant Defense Project. “Taking New York out of Secure Communities is the only solution to protect our families around the state. I applaud the Governor for his leadership and hope that he will inspire similar steps to be taken throughout the country in order to rescind Secure Communities. ”
Mizue Aizeki, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights added, "Governor Cuomo's decision sends a strong message that it is bad policy for police to play the role of immigration officers. We must stand firm as a state and a nation that we should not be forced to participate in a federal program that violate our civil and human rights.”
“DHS has gotten into the snake oil business. They've sold to the public, to Congress, and to local government partners a program that was built on deception since its inception,” said Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network. “Thankfully, New York is not buying, and for a very good reason. The country has seen the dangerous effects of this snake oil in Arizona, where SCOMM was piloted. It poisoned politics and policy and that state, and New Yorkers should be grateful their governor has taken action to protect their state.”