A majority of foreign nationals detained for deportation in Miami-Dade County through the controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities were not dangerous criminals, according to a report to be released Monday.
The conclusions of the 57 page report, False Promises: The Failure of Secure Communities in Miami-Dade County, are at odds with the stated objectives of the federal program launched in 2008.
Those goals are to detain and deport convicted foreign nationals who pose a threat to public safety and those who are repeat violators of immigration laws, such as immigrants who have returned to the United States after being deported.
Contrary to these policy goals, we found that 61 percent of individuals ordered for removal from Miami-Dade County are either low-level offenders or not guilty of the crime for which they were arrested, according to the report.
The report was prepared jointly by the staff of a Miami immigrant-rights organization, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and the Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy at Florida International Universitys Center for Labor Research & Studies.
The report is to be released at an 11 a.m. news conference Monday at the offices of Americans for Immigrant Justice.
Under Secure Communities, the names and fingerprints of people arrested by police in a given county are turned over to the Department of Homeland Security, whose Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency checks for foreign nationals who might be subject to detention and potential deportation.
In a statement, ICE said it "cannot comment on a report the agency has not reviewed," but defended the Secure Communities program.
Over the past three years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has dramatically changed the way it conducts immigration enforcement, the statement said. ICE implemented clear priorities, enhanced the use of prosecutorial discretion, and implemented a sustained focus on the identification and removal of criminal aliens and other priority individuals.
It added that Secure Communities has proven to be the single-most-valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach to identification used in the past, and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators.
Since its activation on Oct. 27, 2008, through Jan. 31, the statement noted, Secure Communities has helped ICE deport more than 254,000 foreign nationals who had been convicted of serious crimes, including more than 72,000 who had been found guilty of such crimes as murder, rape and sexual abuse of children.
More than 95 percent of the 254,249 removals generated through Secure Communities clearly fell within one of ICEs enforcement priorities, the statement said.
To prevent abuses, it added, ICE on Dec. 21, issued new guidance limiting the use of detention to foreign nationals who meet the agencys enforcement priorities, not those arrested for misdemeanors such as traffic offenses and petty crimes.
The immigrant-rights groups report took issue with ICEs stance.
By ICEs standards only 18 percent of the individuals ordered for removal represent high priority public safety risks, and that number drops to a mere 6 percent when we apply local standards suggested by Miami-Dade Countys Public Defender, the report states. Interviews with detainees also reveal that often residents are stopped by police for no apparent reason and subjected to detention and deportation.