Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Border Security, Homeland Security, & Now "Community Security"

The immigration system was badly broken before it became the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. But now that immigration is the province of Homeland Security the challenge of getting immigration right has become much greater. No longer simply a matter of determining a regulatory system, the immigration crisis was considered a matter of national security. Within this new security context, the crackdown on immigration gained momentum and has proved more difficult to oppose. Over the past eight years the deepening crackdown on immigrants has evolved within this new security framework. One of the latest DHS initiatives, Secure Communities, builds on the overblown association of immigrants and security threats. Created in the wake of Sept. 11 to better protect the country against attacks by foreign terrorists, DHS now believes it is also responsible for community security. It’s the latest case of mission creep at DHS. DHS, through its immigration and border control agencies, has in the last eight years mounted an array of initiatives—including Operation Community Shield, the 287(g) program, National Fugitive Operations, and Secure Communities, which promise to increase public safety by joining with local police to target immigrants. The Secure Communities program highlights four fundamental trends in immigration enforcement: 1. Increasing merger of criminal and immigration law enforcement. 2. Rapid expansion of federal/local partnerships in immigration enforcement. 3. Spearheading the use of identification technology across the spectrum of law enforcement agencies. 4. Evolving justifications and mission goals for a crackdown on immigrants, both on the border and in the country's interior—including protecting national security, upholding "rule of law," enforcing immigration law and controlling the border as preconditions for comprehensive reform, and, most recently, securing communities. These four trends embodied in the Secure Communities program raise concerns about the new directions of immigration enforcement, including the following: * Categorization of increasing numbers of immigrants, legal and illegal, as "criminal aliens" to increase immigrant removals, when most do not represent a threat to public safety. * Clogging the already overburdened criminal justice system with immigrant prosecutions. * Loss of community trust in local law enforcement and resulting threat to public safety as police become instruments of immigration enforcement. * Undermining individual privacy and rights, as government extends data-mining and identity checks without any clear focus either on real national security or public safety threats. * The deepening and expansion of the immigration enforcement apparatus without any accompanying commitment to immigration policy reform. * Rapid expansion of the Department of Homeland Security without a clear focus on protecting the country against truly dangerous people. The TransBorder Project of the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy details the problems and dangers of Secure Communities in a new policy report titled “Community Security” Mission Creep, and sets for policy recommendations for a more responsible immigration enforcement policy. This is the third policy report on related themes of immigration enforcement. Also see: Immigrant Crackdown Joins Failed Wars on Crime and Drugs, and Restoring Integrity to the Immigration System.

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