When Massachusetts immigrant organization Centro Presente learned this summer that Boston had been secretly participating in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s misnamed Secure Communities program, they decided to launch their own little project to educate and mobilize opposition: Just Communities. So when Gov. Deval Patrick announced plans to approve the program for the entire state, Centro Presente and supporters such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts were ready to do something about it.
Over 100 immigrant rights advocates from a coalition of groups took to the State House a couple days before Christmas in protest, chanting “Police State? No. Democracy? Yes.” Secure Communities, under which police check the fingerprints of arrestees against an immigration database, was sold to the public as a program that would protect America from dangerous criminals, but actually wastes resources deporting many people convicted of nothing or minor violations. “Far from making our communities secure, this program counters decades of community policing and outreach efforts in places like Greater Boston by casting doubt on the intentions of the actions of local law enforcement in immigrant neighborhoods,” stated Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente. The Just Communities/Comunidades Justas campaign further warns about racial profiling and due process violations.
As Clara Long writes on the Human Rights cause, Gov. Patrick used to be seen as someone who would stand up for justice and immigrant rights. So why the about face? The governor’s office states that, since ICE has informed them that all states will have to participate in the program by 2013, it’s better to join the gang now and “have a seat at the table.” Um, what table? As the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) states, “There is no table. In prior discussions between state officials and ICE, ICE has said that there is no flexibility and that they are not willing to put any limitations on their enforcement authority.”
All Gov. Patrick accomplishes with his signature is the validation of a counterproductive and unjust program. And while ICE might claims every state will be forcibly opted in by 2013, there’s a reason Secure Communities currently works on a volunteer state-by-state basis. If states band together to protest the imposition of this program on their local law enforcement and point out its glaring problems, that would undermine ICE’s ability to defend Securities Communities as a positive tactic and could reverse its planned roll-out. ICE needs official support to succeed in its plans; deprived of that, a deeply unpopular program could fall to pieces. That’s why groups such as Centro Presente are fighting to stop Gov. Patrick from giving his stamp of approval, like advocates in New York and Washington State targeting their own governors.
“They tell us that they want our input before they sign on. That’s not the point. We don’t want them to sign on to this terminally flawed program. We want them to fight it,” stated Centro Presente Executive Director Patricia Montes. Stand with Centro Presente and other immigrant rights allies by signing this petition asking Gov. Patrick to reconsider his flawed decision to sign on to Secure Communities.
Photo credit: WEBN-TV
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