Guest blog by Michael Mandel, Co-Chair, AILA-NY Advocacy/Media Committee

In this era of record deportations, enforcement only policies and an all around refusal by Congress and the Obama administration to ease the daily terror felt by millions of immigrants, advocates welcomed the recent news that Massachusetts, New York and Illinois are refusing to participate in the “Secure Communities” program (Washington and Minnesota refused to join in the first place).  The governors of those states showed true leadership by standing on the side of justice and reaffirming their states’ commitment to immigrants.  Now it is time for the Obama Administration to admit that the program cannot be improved or reformed and instead must be terminated nationwide.  [Not surprisingly, early indications are that they are going to do just the opposite.]

Secure Communities is a devastating addition to an already misguided national immigration policy that prefers mass detention and deportation to respecting the dignity, humanity and contributions of immigrants.  By automatically placing any immigrant who is arrested into the detention and deportation system, Secure Communities continues the federal government’s shameful collusion with local police to use the criminal justice system as a dragnet for deporting massive numbers of immigrants.   Contrary to its name, Secure Communities makes our communities less safe, encourages racial profiling, jeopardizes already tenuous relationships between immigrants and local police, violates due process, lacks oversight and transparency, imposes huge costs, forces local police to do the federal government’s job, and makes a mockery of the democratic process.

Here in New York, AILA’s New York Chapter is a proud member of the New York Working Group Against Deportation, a broad coalition of domestic violence, immigrant rights, family services, labor, faith-based, civil rights and community-based organizations that aims to stop Secure Communities and other deportation programs. Through the Working Group, over 80 organizations, 130 faith leaders, and 80 elected officials joined together to urge Governor Cuomo to terminate New York’s Secure Communities agreement with ICE.

AILA’s NY chapter outlined our opposition to Secure Communities in a letter to Governor Cuomo.  Our members attended rallies, signed petitions and supported the efforts of immigrants and other allies in a variety of ways.  As immigration attorneys, we are in a unique position to see the devastating consequences that the war on immigrants and Secure Communities is having across the country.  As a result, we felt that it was our responsibility to speak out against this ill-conceived program and demand a complete and total termination of Secure Communities both in NY and nationally.

Any mass deportation program that tears families apart, funnels countless immigrants into an unjust deportation/detention system, risks public safety and destroys civil liberties has no place anywhere in this country.  We salute those courageous governors who refused to be pressured by the federal government and instead took decisive action to ensure that their states remain welcoming places for immigrants.  We commend and congratulate those AILA members who have been working tirelessly in opposition to Secure Communities and encourage all members across the country to join the fight.  As we’ve seen in Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, it is one that we can win.