Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misstated the start date of enforcement of the Secure Communities Program in Travis County. It actually began in 2009.
The Orwellian-named Secure Communities Program conducted by the Immigrations & Customs Enforcement Department in conjunction with local law enforcement entities, including the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, provides for anything but. The program allows for these entities to share the names of people accused of crimes and being detained so that, if the defendants are undocumented immigrants, deportation proceedings may begin. Never mind that most of these deportees are not suspected of violent crimes and never mind that we are ostensibly innocent until proven guilty in this country.
This brazen violation of due process has rightly been denounced already by the Austin City Council, unanimously, this past summer. On Tuesday, Student Government will vote on a similar resolution, urging the Travis County Commissioners Court to put an end to this wasteful and hurtful program.
The program, which originated in the Bush administration but was revved up following President Barack Obama’s taking office, is “a simple and common sense way to carry out ICE’s priorities,” according to ICE’s website, which also adds that ICE “[prioritizes] the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime.”
But studies on the program’s effectiveness and implementation suggest it neither fulfills its titular promise (making the community safe) nor prioritizes the removal of dangerous criminals. Some 82 percent of deportees under the program, by some accounts, are non-criminals, without a conviction in any crime. Pertinent studies have also made a compelling case that it does not deter crime one bit. Rather, all this program does is continue the criminalization of immigrants and allow a president desperate for support to pander to one of the lowest common denominators of the electorate, xenophobes and nativists.
Accordingly, we strongly urge SG to pass the anti-Secure Communities resolution and hope this similarly applies pressure on the commissioners to end this misguided practice in the near future.
Since this program first began in Travis County in 2009, nearly $4 million have been wasted deporting an average of 19 people per week, the vast majority of whom have not been convicted of anything, much less a violent crime of any persuasion. Sheriff Greg Hamilton has insisted time and again that he is compelled to abide by these federal mandates, but ICE’s own website clearly states “Secure Communities imposes no new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement.”
In any case, we hope unified messages from SG and the commissioners could clear up the ambiguity.