So much for San Francisco being a sanctuary city. The National Day Laborer Organization (NDLON) and two other organizations have unearthed statistics that show San Francisco in the nation’s "top 38" counties, when it comes to deporting immigrants who had not been convicted of crimes.
The statistics, which the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department provided as part of a public records request, also show that California is the top state in the nation, when it comes to deporting “non-criminal aliens,” which is how federal authorities categorize immigrants who lack visas and green cards, since both are simply violation of civil administrative law, and not criminal acts.
These revelations come as internal documents, procured by the New York Times, suggest that federal immigration officers, facing resistance from Chicago and Cook County to join ICE’s controversial Secure-Communities program, pushed local officials to secure the participation of reluctant police departments.
Immigrant advocates say these newly released documents are fueling concerns that S-Comm is being used to circumvent due process for immigrants, and futher illustrate the need for reform, at the statewide level, to avoid abuse.
But ICE refutes charges that it is circumventing due process and primarily deporting immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.
“Secure Communities is a comprehensive initiative to modernize the criminal alien enforcement process,” an ICE spokesperson told the Guardian. “While ICE prioritizes the removal of convicted criminal aliens, the agency still enforces the law with regard to other aliens who are subject to removal. In addition to criminal aliens, ICE’s priorities include other individuals who pose a potential threat to public safety - such as those with known gang affiliations and prior drunk driving arrests - as well as immigration fugitives and individuals who have tried to game the immigration system.”
ICE officials also said that their review of the latest S-Comm statistics for San Francisco County show that “more than 60 percent of the aliens who’ve come into ICE custody since Secure Communities’ local activation are convicted criminals. What’s more, nearly one third of those cases involve individuals who’ve been convicted of Level 1 offenses [felony crimes].
But NDLON spokesperson B. Loewe said the newest data show that, several years into the S-Comm program, problems that immigrant advocates have been raising since S-Comm began, are continuing.
“There is no protection for the innocent, or even victims of crime, and the program appears to lend itself to circumventing due process,” Loewe said. “The latest numbers should raise concerns for anyone who cares not just fro civil rights but also for public safety for all.”
The S-Comm statistics emerged as part of a Freedom of Information Act request that NDLON, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law filed pertaining to ICE’s controversial Secure -Communities program.
Launched in Texas in March 2008, S-Comm involves state and local entities in the enforcement of federal immigration law by turning on a mechanism to run fingerprints through various databases when individuals are arrested, even if those individuals are brought in on minor charges or if their charges are subsequently dismissed.
“What’s most significant is that San Francisco is among the top 38 counties nationwide, and among the top 13 California counties,” said Jon Rodney, communications project coordinator at the California Immigrant Policy Center.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Angela Chan, a San Francisco Police Commissioner and Asian Law Caucus staff attorney. Chan noted that between October 2008, when California began implementing S-Comm, and February 2011, California has deported 35,643 local residents.
“That’s 10,000 more than Texas, which deported 24,152 residents,” Chan observed. She also noted that California is the state that deports the highest numbers of residents nationwide.
The top 13 counties in California deporting the highest percentage of non-criminal? Merced, Fresno, Tulare, Solano, Monterey, Kern, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Riverside, Sonoma, and Alameda, in that order.
This latest round of charges comes ten months after S-Comm was first activated in San Francisco, and fresh on the heels of Assemblymember Tom Ammiano's announcement of AB 1081, a bill that would honor the right of local governments to opt out of the federal S-Comm and set basic safeguards for those municipalities that do decide to participate.
Chan notes that the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing on AB 1081 on April 26.
“Ammiano’s bill is timely and crucial,” Chan said, noting that California signed an S-Comm agreement without public input, notice or negotiations.
“That [process] raised concerns that California signed a boilerplate agreement that was dictated by ICE” Chan said. “And it’s part of the reason why we have such high numbers of deportations,” she continued, noting that Ammiano’s bill “connects to an existing clause,” in the memorandum of understanding that the California Attorney General’s Office signed with ICE, back when Gov. Jerry Brown was still California Attorney General.
Ammiano’s bill would require the California Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information to modify the agreement it entered into with the US Department of Homeland Security in May 2009, regarding S-Communities.
Meanwhile, in a March 7 memo (a copy was procured through NDLON’s public records request) ICE noted that its Secure-Comm program produced over 133,000 matches in the first five months of 2011, compared to 248,000 matches in 2010.
ICE also noted that since the program was first activated in Harris County, Texas, on Oct. 27, 2008, the agency has removed over 94,000 aliens and over 24,600 criminal aliens convicted of Level 1 (felony offenses) that were identified through the program.
“Deployment continues to be the primary driver for increased identifications,” ICE stated, observing that in the first five months of 2011, ICE will deploy S-Comm in 409 new jurisdictions. This means that by the end of May, 1,067 jurisdictions will be activated in 39 states, “covering 70 percent of the foreign non-citizen population.”
ICE’s goal is to deploy the program to an additional 488 jurisdictions by the end of 2011, bringing the total jurisdictions deployed by year’s end to 897.
But as Chan notes, Ammiano’s AB 1081 has implications for how and whether S-Comm gets activated in any more California counties,
“AB 1081 requires needed modifications to California’s S-Comm agreement, which was signed in April 2009 by California,” Chan said. “ It was one of the first, if not the first, agreement signed by a state to enter into S-Comm. AB 1081 taps into this contract term, which allows modification and termination of the agreement, to allow counties to opt in or out of the deeply flawed program.”