Background: The increasing merger of federal Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) and local and state law enforcement agencies has turned police officers into a primary gateway for deportation and resulted in record-breaking detentions and deportations, serious civil rights and due process concerns, and damaged trust between immigrant communities and local police. The most harmful of the federal programs driving this merger is the so-called “Secure Communities” program or S-comm, where the fingerprints of persons booked at local, state and federal jails are automatically sent to ICE to determine their legal status. If someone is flagged as undocumented, ICE sends a “detainer request” asking the local authorities to hold the person until ICE can take them into custody for deportation. Notably, S-Comm operates pre-conviction, meaning that low-priority, non-violent offenders and even the wrongfully accused are being funneled into this program, needlessly separating hundreds of thousands of families.
Communities across the country have resisted S-comm, scoring significant local victories with a number of counties and states formally deciding to opt out of the program. However, ICE insists that S-Comm is mandatory. As a result strategy has shifted from getting state and local authorities to opt out of S-Comm to getting local counties and other jurisdictions to not honor ICE detainer requests. S-Comm cannot work if local authorities do not honor detainer requests; and local authorities are in no way obligated to do so.
People of faith and our congregations have played a major role in turning the tide against S-Comm and the criminalization of members of our communities and we can continue to lead. Faith advocates and allies can create interfaith teams across the country to call on and ask their local officials to not honor ICE detainer requests. A toolkit and map have been created to help you organize. Webinars to supplement the Toolkit will be announced on this page as they are scheduled.
The only secure community is the beloved community. Let’s witness to our mandate to love our neighbors, all our neighbors.