The Secure Communities program has been a resounding failure, deporting more hard-working, honest people than the dangerous criminals that it was supposed to target. This generated deep mistrust in immigrant communities toward law enforcement, defeating the program’s ultimate goal of contributing to public safety.
Numerous police chiefs and municipal and state authorities are aware of this. For years, they have been distancing themselves from this program that from the beginning was immersed in confusion regarding its reach and implementation.
For a long time, there were confusing and even contradictory instructions from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the rollout of the program. One of the big mistakes was including the illegal reentry of a person into the country among the serious crimes that gave a case priority status for deportation. Therefore, the bulk of the record number of deportations2 millionthat the Obama administration has done were based on family separations and minor offenses.
Even data from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies was only able to identify slightly more than 1,800 dangerous convicts who were temporarily released, waiting for their cases to be resolved among the 88,000 convicted undocumented immigrants who were freed.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson wants to relaunch the program so that it finally fulfills its mission. The intention to guarantee public safety is commendable; what is doubtful is that Secure Communities is the way to accomplish that after the debacle it caused.
Secure Communities has zero credibility. To correct the mistakes from the past, the first thing DHS must do is eliminate this program and build one from the ground up, really focusing on undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes.