Washington, DC, has been for decades a safe place for immigrants, including undocumented workers. Local enforcement were forbidden by law to inquire about a person's immigration status, to avoid discrimination and violate human rights. This is not longer the case.
Last November 2009, DC Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier signed secretly an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to implement the Secure Communities Program, which is intended to fight crime by reporting criminals to ICE (Immgration and Custom Enforcement) who are in the country undocumented, while racially profiling D.C. residents.
The local media is only reporting only one side of this program's effects, saying that this program is only intended to reduce crime and that it only applies to immigrants who are already imprisoned.
However, local DC activists are protesting this program. The non-profit DC Jobs with Justice is protesting Security Communities among several reasons, because it's being implemented "without community consultation, [they will] run the fingerprints of everyone arrested in the District of Columbia through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database.”
In fact, this program is dangerous because it will promote racial profiling targeting Brown people, mostly immigrants. Some D.C. leaders are saying this program will convert this city into a new Guantanamo:
"We don't want a Guantanamo in the Nation's Capital" said Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, before a packed audience during yesterday's community dialogue at the University of the District of Columbia on the Secure Communities program.Anti-immigrant repression
This week people around the nation are talking about the law SB-1070 passed in Arizona, which criminalizes undocumented immigrants. [See video here of what I think about it].
What is happening in Arizona is not an isolated case, but is part of a trend in which the U.S. federal government is allowing state and local governments to take charge on immigration law enforcement, which is exclusively a federal responsibility according to the U.S. Constitution.
The Obama administration has increased the criminalization of immigrants, which started when the Bush administration implemented the 287(g) Program created by the Clinton administration. The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws and it has resulted in hundreds of people being incarcerated and deported, some of whom were U.S. citizens of Indigenous (Latino) heritage.
The 287(g) Program has hurt several communities -socially and economically- across the nation, including Virginia's Prince William County and Arizona’s Maricopa County where racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio is committing human rights abuses. [See video here of Mesa Police Chief George Gascon describing the bad effects of such program] This program has divided families and left children in foster care.
The Security Communities Program has been implement already in many cities, and the Obama administration wants it to cover all the nation by 2011. Here is a video from the Houston, TX Police department giving their side of the story:
The other side of this story is told by a DC Police officer:
The program will only further marginalize immigrants and deepen distrust towards the police, argued Ronald Hampton (l), Executive Director of the National Black Police Association. "If there was real community policing in DC, the community would have been consulted before the implementation of this program. By broadening the potential for racial profiling, Secure Communities will not only hurt [Latinos], it will hurt Blacks."
Public Event “DC is not Arizona”
This information was shared today by email and Facebook. This event is tomorrow, please attend and get involved:
Join local and national leaders as we denounce systematized racial profiling and ask the DC police Chief to do the same.The organizers of this event say that “Arizona is proof that police and ICE collaborations are dangerous and disastrous. DC will not become Arizona by joining another failed police-ICE program. After the press conference we will go into the Wilson Building to meet with Councilmembers and ask them to join us in calling for termination of the program.”
Press Event and Rally
Date: Tuesday April 27, 2010
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, DC
Ron Hampton, National Black Police Association Executive Director
Ben Jealous, NAACP, President and CEO
Pablo Alvarado, NDLON Executive Director
Jaime Contreras, 32BJ SEIU Capitol Area Director & District Chair
Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of the National Capitol Area ACLU
Sameera Hafiz, Legal Momentum Senior Staff Attorney
DC Councilmember Jim Graham
Most undocumented immigrants don't represent a threat for this city and its residents safety. If a person commits a crime, he/she should be legally convicted with prison time according to the law. But promoting mass deportations of criminals (and suspects) has a financial and social cost, which will only hurt the most vulnerable population of this city.
Meanwhile the Prison industry will get more profits as the inmate population grows. This is not going to make this city any safer, nor will stop undocumented immigration at all.
When immigrants are criminalized -instead of being embraced and promoted as human beings- hard working, talented and well intentioned people pay for the crimes of a few delinquents. This program can only increase anti-immigrant sentiments and racial division in the city.