Secure Communities

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch will implement its “Secure Communities” program in New York City beginning May 15, 2012.

ICE, created in 2003, portrays the program as the natural next step to effectively address immigration in the United States. On its website it claims that

Secure Communities is a simple and common sense way to carry out ICE’s priorities. It uses an already-existing federal information-sharing partnership between ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that helps to identify criminal aliens without imposing new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement. For decades, local jurisdictions have shared the fingerprints of individuals who are arrested or booked into custody with the FBI to see if they have a criminal record. Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases. If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise removable due to a criminal conviction, ICE takes enforcement action – prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history, and other factors – as well as those who have repeatedly violated immigration laws.

The program will also be implemented in Massachusetts that day, with supporters including Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson who said Secure Communities “isn’t just a big victory for law enforcement.” Referring to “several high-profile motor-vehicle accidents involving illegal immigrants” as reported by The Boston Globe, Hodgson claims “[the program] is a big victory for the families who have lost loved ones.”

“S-Comm,” as several sources have started calling it, has also come under fire, with Governor Cuomo opposing the program. Fox Latino reported today that “New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that it will harm too many people charged with low-level offenses and make immigrants hesitant to cooperate with police or report crimes.” The New York Immigration Coalition released a statement from its executive director Ms. Chung-Wha Hong in which she explains that “it has been clear from its inception that this program undermines our safety and infringes on our civil rights. And evidence of its fundamental flaws has only continued to mount. We now know that Latinos are disproportionately arrested by ICE through Secure Communities, the program has an adverse impact on community policing, and states and localities around the country do not want it in their communities.”

ICE claims it has these concerns in mind and has begun work on policies to protect the civil rights of those involved and training officers to adequately fulfill ICE’s mission.

The promise, however, rings empty and there are protests in the works against yet another anti-immigrant policy in the United States.


Fox News Latino. “Secure Communities Activated in New York, Despite Objections.”

New York Immigration Coalition.

Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

The Boston Globe. “Feds to activate Secure Communities.”

U.S Immigrant and Customs Enforcement. Overview.

U.S Immigrant and Customs Enforcement. Secure Communities.

Bienvenido a Casa – El Salvador Welcomes Home Deported Immigrants

Immigration and deportation policy, and its implementation in the United States, are scarred by discrimination, bigotry, violence, and a blatant disregard for the well-being of immigrants and their families. El Salvador – a country bearing the name “The Savior” – offers a glimpse of hope for immigrants, or more adequately noncitizens, who are forced to return to a country they may no longer call home.

Immigrants in the United States are often stigmatized as criminals, but this is not representative of the entire population. In their 2008 article “U.S. Deportation Policy, Family Separation, and Circular Migration” Jacqueline Hagan et al. study Salvadoran deportees. Their work expands on the reality that the majority of deportees are poor Latin American immigrants deported for “non-criminal reasons, such as immigration violations, use of fraudulent documents, and petty crimes that were committed years earlier” (Hagan et al. 2008). Their study includes new arrivals apprehended at a port of entry, as well as settled migrants including “authorized permanent residents who may have violated immigration provisions or committed relatively minor criminal offenses.” They add to a more comprehensive narrative of immigration, which includes people deported after a long spell of residence in the United States, periods often exceeding 10 years – long enough to forge “stable family and household relationships in the United States” (Hagan et al. 2008). 31% of the respondents in their study reported living with a spouse or child and 78% had become part of the U.S labor force.

El Salvador, recognizing the hardships suffered by those deported, decided to help “los compatriotas que un día viajaron a alcanzar el sueño Americano sin imaginarse que ese sueño se convertiría en pesadilla” (la prensagrafica) – the compatriots who one day traveled to reach the American dream without imagining that that dream would become a nightmare – and develop a program called Bienvenido a Casa. Established in 1999, Welcome Home aims to “ease the reintegration of deportees into Salvadoran society” (Hagan et al. 2008), a difficult feat considering the hostile reception they receive from those in their supposed “home.”

In 2002, in an article titled “Unwanted in Houston, unwelcome at home / 230 Salvadorans are stuck in a local prison because their government won’t accept them,” the Houston Chronicle reported: “The last thing people in El Salvador want is to have immigrants returned there after they have problems here,” said Nestor Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Houston’s Center for Immigration Research. In his assessment, “Salvadorans believe those forced to return from the United States are changed for the worse…Many deportees suffer discrimination and have difficulty finding work in San Salvador.”

The program includes services such as “(1) funds and information to help deportees reach their homes; (2) referrals to an array of social service providers; (3) counseling services to assist with the trauma and stress of detention and deportation; and (4) a job placement initiative to help deportees locate work, a monumental task for many deportees in a country with high unemployment rates and little tolerance for the growing U.S. deportee population” (Hagan et al. 2008).

The effort is admirable. It counts with the collaboration of several organizations including the Ministry of Health, Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Tourism among others (laprensagrafica). It is comprehensive program with the potential to alleviate some of the damage caused by a country which presents itself to the world as the model of democracy and opportunity, but threatens the very livelihood of its neighbors.


Hagan, J., Eschbach, K. and Rodriguez, N. 2008. “U.S. Deportation Policy, Family Separation, and Circular Migration.” International Migration Review 42: 64–88. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2007.00114.x

Hegstrom, Edward. 2002. “Unwanted in Houston, unwelcome at home / 230 Salvadorans are stuck in a local prison because their government won’t accept them.” The Houston Chronicle. November 20, 2002. Retrieved: May 11, 2012.

“Programa ‘Bienvenido a casa’.” Laprensagraficavideo on