Secure Communities program subject of recent federal hearing 

Homeland Insecurity

Homeland Insecurity

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security — whose greatest hits include turning shampoo ownership into a liability, harnessing the awesome powers of science to expose the genitals of hapless air travel passengers and, most famously, evoking an outpouring of national sympathy for Mike Myers — carved another notch in its Freedom Belt last week, when the umbrella agency rescinded its memorandum of agreements with states participating in its controversial (and formerly voluntary) Secure Communities program (aka "S-Comm").

This means states can no longer opt out of the initiative, which critics contend mutated from a Bush-era attempt to address illegal immigration into a full-fledged deportation machine for any nonwhite person unfortunate enough to be caught driving without a license. (For an example, see "Perchance to Dream," about the arrest of Overton High School graduate Mercedes Gonzalez, in the Aug. 4 edition of the Scene.) By the time the DHS policy change takes effect in 2013, the result will be a de facto nationwide adoption of Secure Communities in all its breathing-while-brown glory.

The program's abysmal public (and professional) reception serves as the backdrop for ongoing litigation between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), which has been fighting the government for the past year-and-a-half for the release of potentially embarrassing documents that would shine a brighter light on the agency's murky tactics and policies.

At a hearing yesterday in Manhattan, ICE was given an extension until Monday to produce a memo outlining the rationale for the mandatory adoption of S-Comm. The agency will also have the option to punt the release by filing an appeal, effectively moving the goal posts yet again. The documents in question were set to be produced earlier this year, and have languished due to the government's procedural jerry-rigging.

Briget Kessler, an attorney for the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law representing NDLON, says the judge presiding over the case, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, had "some harsh words for ICE, and expressed frustration at their slowness over what they're willing to offer."

"Hopefully they will produce the documents on Monday," Kessler tells the Scene. "The agency is claiming they don't have to release it, but it is imposing this mandatory program but not disclosing to the public the reasons for why it is mandatory."

Another cache of documents will be the subject of a hearing on Thursday, Aug. 18. ICE intended to produce them over the next three years. Kessler says the judge found that timeline "unacceptable."

As of 2010, 21 of Tennessee's 95 counties — including Davidson — participate in the S-Comm biometrics program, which is fancy-talk for expediting fingerprint analysis and other methods of identification. Since ICE was folded into Homeland Security in 2001, deportations have roughly doubled in the United States, with a consistent majority of the deported being tossed out for nonviolent crimes. When coupled with ICE's (other) controversial program, 287(g), the results of the overarching legal framework within a "secure community" are, well, probably what you'd expect: More nonwhite people processed into the crowded, taxpayer-funded prison system.

Email editor@nashvillescene.com

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