More than 80 neighborhood residents and activists expressed their concerns at a community meeting organized by several Queens-based organizations about the new Secure Communities program (S-Comm) directed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The meeting at P.S. 19 in Corona on Wednesday, October 6 focused on S-Comm. Under S-Comm, local law enforcement agencies are required to forward the fingerprints of every arrested person to the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric identification system. Police then transfer those suspected of being deportable into the detention and deportation system.
More than 500 New Yorkers participated in Make the Road New York’s (MRNY) Walk for Justice, a walkathon to raise money and promote justice for low-income and Latino immigrant communities in the five boroughs.
The walk on Sunday, September 19 started at the Northern Playground on 93rd Street and Northern Boulevard in Corona at 10:30 a.m. The walkers travelled through Elmhurst and Corona, two of the most diverse immigrant neighborhoods in Queens.
Advocacy groups and elected officials in Corona last week denounced U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Secure Communities, an initiative aimed at modernizing how the organization identifies criminal aliens but one which the groups say will breed distrust of the police in immigrant neighborhoods.
“We cannot trust this system or trust ICE,” said Josh Epstein, staff attorney for the Immigrant Defense Project.
Last May, New York signed on to an immigration enforcement program that allows local police to share with federal authorities the digital fingerprints of anyone arrested in the state. The program -- called Secure Communities -- is designed to find and deport undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes like murder, kidnapping and threats to national security.
“New York has a public safety interest in identifying and deporting serious alien defendants from state prisons and jails,” said John M. Caher, director of public information for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), in a written statement.
A new federal program called Secure Communities makes many residents of New York feel anything but safe.
Piloted in 2008, the policy requires local police to share the fingerprints of everyone they arrest with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, and to detain and deport those who are here without visas. Secure Communities has been implemented in 33 states and will take effect in New York this fall, unless residents at the state or municipal level are given the choice to opt out.
Some 700 immigrants from diverse communities rallied at the New York State Capitol in Albany on Tuesday to ensure that key services supporting their communities are not cut out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget.
Immigrants make up a quarter of the state’s workforce and are advocating for ten budget and policy priorities that range from affordable housing, language access for government services, education funding for English language learners, ending Secure Communities and maintaining health care programs.
"Common sense and reason have prevailed and we can thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for that," said State Senator Jose R. Peralta, long an outspoken critic of the Secure Communities program. "The Secure Communities program was tearing families apart. It was supposed to focus on dangerous criminals, but the vast majority of those deported through the program were hardworking immigrants with no criminal record. Immigrant communities simply became even more fearful of law enforcement, worried about arrests and deportations. The program became a disincentive to reporting crimes and cooperating with law enforcement, endangering community safety. "Many, many thanks to Governor Cuomo."
"For many undocumented immigrants, America is the only country they know. In their hearts and minds they are American. Sadly, Republicans either can't, or choose not to understand this. By blocking the Dream Act, they denied millions of undocumented Americans the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
"The president's executive order will at least afford undocumented Americans the chance to come out from the shadows and enter the economic mainstream.