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Judge orders ICE to hand over Secure Communities documents

A federal judge has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and the federal Bureau of Investigation to provide the national Day Labor Organizing Network with documents related to the Secure Communities program. The network is seeking the documents under the Freedom of Information Act to find confirmation that the federal agencies have used the controversial Secure Communities program to detain and deport thousands of undocumented immigrants for minor infractions.

A number of cities across the country have been criticizing the Secure Communities program as creating an unworkable system for local law enforcement to protect their communities due to the use at the federal level of local law enforcement data to initiate removal proceedings in immigration courts.

When the Secure Communities program was initially instigated, its stated intent was to focus on violent and repeat criminals. Many communities say people with no convictions, or only convictions for minor offenses have been swept in to the program, causing a chilling effect on local law enforcement's ability to interview crime victims and witnesses.

Reports have indicated 42 percent of the individuals detained under the Secure Communities Program in Florida overall had no criminal convictions on their record. In certain counties, however, the numbers are much higher than the state overall average.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting says in Orange County, 63 percent of those deported as a result of the program were non-criminals. Other counties in the state have nearly as high a percentage. Deportations of non-criminals detained in Palm Beach County reached 62, percent, in Broward County the number was 57 percent and in Miami-Dade, the percentage reportedly reached 57 percent.

In May, this blog reported that members of Congress have sought a federal investigation of the program after communities learned that they could not effectively opt-out of the federal system. The federal judge's ruling Monday will cover documents that may provide further information regarding local communities and state's lack of ability to effectively opt out of what is now being described as a mandatory federal immigration program.

Source: Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, "Judge Requires Greater Openness About Secure Communities," Ralph De La Cruz 13 Jul 2011

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