In 2011, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked local police departments across the country to begin detaining people who have been charged with minor crimes for up to 48 hours if their citizenship status cannot be proven at the time of their arrest. The policy, which is part of the “Secure Communities” program spearheaded by the federal government, is supposed to assist ICE officials with identifying individuals who may be in the country illegally and hold them for further questioning, examination and possible deportation.
However, immigration attorneys in New Jersey report that the Newark Police Department has recently become the first law enforcement group in the state to initiate a standard noncompliance policy with respect to ICE's request. Newark is not the only police department to decide not to comply with the Secure Communities program. Agencies in New York City, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Chicago and Connecticut have already assumed noncompliance policies of their own, and New Orleans’ sheriffs are in agreement with those agencies right alongside Newark.
The Secure Communities Program
ICE introduced the Secure Communities program in an effort to monitor dangerous criminals who have illegally entered the country and may be "flying under the radar." Using the detention policy, the Department of Homeland Security checks fingerprint scans that have been collected in police departments across the country during arrests and verifies immigration status for those who have been booked for crimes ranging from drug sales, homicide, shoplifting, traffic violations, etc. Prints that lead Homeland Securities officers to question a person’s immigration status are then passed on to ICE agents, who then send out detainer requests.
Collaboration for Refusal
The controversy with this process is that many people who have committed minor offenses, such as shoplifting, vandalism, driving and traffic offenses or disorderly conduct, are showing up in the fingerprint search and being detained for their lower-level crimes. Immigration advocates and the ACLU in New Jersey fear that the policy has been abused such that it leads to minor criminals being deported, and they have been working with local police departments to change their procedures. Their collaboration was instrumental in the Newark Police Department’s decision to refuse to comply.
Samuel DeMaio, Newark Police Director, signed the directive back in July of 2014, which states that the city’s law enforcement officials will continue to send fingerprint information to Homeland Security and federal agents, but will no longer fulfill requests from ICE to detain persons who have committed minor crimes. This policy of noncompliance will keep the residents of Newark from constantly fearing that false arrests may lead to deportation or that their low-level crimes will be punished with the ultimate sentence.
Contact Your Immigration Lawyer
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our immigration attorneys in New Jersey support the noncompliance movement from the Newark Police Department, as it helps keep minor criminal behavior from being so harshly penalized. To discuss this policy, or a detention case against you or your family member, contact an HCK lawyer today.