Michael Hennessey, San Francisco’s sheriff, has a captivating (and compassionate) piece in the San Francisco Chronicle today, making the case against an immigration enforcement strategy better know as the Secure Communities Program. This is pretty timely, given that earlier this month, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren called for an investigation into DHS/ICE federal immigration processes, claiming that many police departments were coerced into participating in the program, despite their better judgement to stay far away from it.
The ICE website describes the strategy as one that “improves public safety every day by transforming the way criminal aliens are identified and removed from the United States,” but as we noted in our last blog post re: secure communities:
Police departments have repeatedly voiced concern over the program, arguing that their involvement will make community policing harder. Though Secure Communities is intended to target “criminal” undocumented immigrants, it’s hard to know what that is when rogue police officers decide to criminalize and punish undocumented immigrants for merely “looking” like they’re undocumented.
As the sheriff of San Francisco for more than 30 years, I know that maintaining public safety requires earning community trust. We rely heavily on the trust and cooperation of all community members – including immigrants – to come forward and report crimes, either as victims or as witnesses. Otherwise, crimes go unreported – and this affects everyone, citizens and noncitizens alike. It also leads to “street justice,” in which residents who are too afraid to go to the police decide to take justice into their own hands, often with deadly result.
San Francisco has always been a city of immigrants. We are proud of our diversity. We value the contributions of immigrants to our community. Law enforcement and other civic leaders work hard to serve all of our residents in an effort to promote the health and safety of our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s controversial Secure Communities program violates this hard-earned trust with immigrant residents. Under this program, the fingerprints of everyone booked into a county jail are conveyed electronically to ICE, which checks them against its own database to see if deportation should be considered. This applies to even a minor matter, such as having no driver’s license in one’s possession in a traffic stop.