Secure Communities

What is Secure Communities?
Secure Communities (SComm) is an information sharing program between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Normally, when a local law enforcement agency arrests someone, they will fingerprint them and send those fingerprints to the FBI to see if there are any outstanding warrants in other states for the person arrested.  With SComm, the FBI will forward those fingerprints to a DHS office in Virginia to determine the person’s immigration status and whether or not they are deportable.  If DHS determines that the person is an immigrant and possibly deportable, they will forward the information to the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office which will determine whether or not to issue a detainer against the arrested individual.  A detainer is a request to the arresting law enforcement agency to maintain custody of the arrested person an additional 48 hours (not including weekends and holidays) after they might normally release that person.  This gives ICE time to take custody of that person before the local law enforcement agency releases them.

How is Secure Communities different from the Arizona Law (SB1070)?
In theory, SComm and SB1070 are two very different programs.  SB1070 allows local police officers to arrest without a warrant those individuals that they suspect are deportable; SComm does not allow this.  However, SComm can lead to increased racial profiling by creating an incentive to stop Latinos and other minorities to find a reason for an arrest.  While law enforcement agencies have policies against such actions, not all agencies enforce those policies uniformly and not all officers within an agency adhere to such policies.

Will the police stop me on the street?
Secure Communities does not ask police to look into the immigration status of an individual, but it does create an incentive for racial profiling.  Police should not stop an individual on the street because of suspicion of the individual’s immigration status, however there is no guarantee that this will not happen.  Community members can best protect themselves by knowing their rights when encountering law enforcement.  If someone suspects that an arrest was based on racial profiling or some other violation of civil rights, they should make a complaint with DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and also file a report with your local community organization.

Should I be afraid to report a crime to police?
No.  While no one can guarantee that the police will not report an individual to ICE for reporting a crime, victims of crime should not be forced to cower in fear.  The best way to protect yourself is to know your rights and work with a local community organization that can advocate for you both with ICE and with the media.


Problems with the program:

  • "Secure Communities” has not done what it is supposed to do – go after dangerous criminals. 75 % of those deported under this program have NOT been dangerous criminals.
  • In Boston, over half of the deportees – 53% -- have not even been accused of any criminal offense whatsoever.
  • The program COULD encourage racial profiling since police would know that everyone they arrest would get an immigration check.
  • There is no program oversight, to be sure that any of the abuses, such as racial profiling, are not taking place.
  • In Massachusetts criminals who are actually convicted already go through the deportation process after serving their time.

What you can do:

  • Call. Make your voices heard by President Obama and DHS Director Janet Napolitano. Call the White House at 202-456-1111. Call the DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano at: 202-282-8495 Everyday! Ask them to Stop S-Comm! Sample script for your call:

    My name is_____________ and I am calling ____________ (President Obama/ Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano) to say that I disapprove the Secure Communities implementation by ICE. He/She should stop ICE's decision to implement in our country this program that increases racial profiling and decrease trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Thank you.

  • Organize. Talk to your friends, your family, at your church, at your work, in your community.


More Information:

ICE Detainers and Community Policing
This paper addresses how local law enforcement agencies can limit their involvement with immigration enforcement by lawfully declining to detain people at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  


Secure Communities Media:

Public Hearing in Lawrence, MA      BNN News Interviews BWG
April 2nd, 2011                             July 6th, 2011