Boston S-Comm Ensnares DREAMer, Lizandra DeMoura, In Deportation Proceedings


[Please sign the petition, above, and ask Boston to stop allowing the federal government to turn our local police into border patrol agents.]

Boston has made one mistake too many in trying to enforce federal immigration law.

The city is currently enrolled in the federal program with the Orwellian name Secure Communities (S-Comm), which forces local police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest. The Obama administration wants to force every local police force in the U.S. to enroll in this program by 2013, but states and localities across the nation are resisting. If migrant communities are afraid to go to their local police officers to report crimes, then all residents are less safe. Following the governors of Illinois and New York, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, recently declined to participate in the program.

While the program is under review in Boston, the latest Boston Globe article from Maria Sacchetti makes clear that the time for Boston to terminate its S-Comm program is now. With DREAMer Lizandra DeMoura now in deportation proceedings, this program has manifestly done enough damage to our communities.

In 2006, one of the first official acts of Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis was to refuse then Gov. Mitt Romney's request to use local police forces to enforce federal immigration law. What wouldn't be made public until four years later is that while Davis was publicly decrying the involvement of local police in enforcing federal immigration law, privately, the Boston Police Department was the pilot for a program that would check the immigration status of everyone they arrested, a program which would later come to be known as S-Comm.

It's easy to understand why the federal government approached Boston about doing this. As one of the most pro-migrant major cities in the U.S., involving Boston early would blunt criticism against S-Comm later. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also promised all participants in S-Comm that the purpose of the program would be to target the worst of the worst for deportation.

As is typical, if you give an inch, power takes a mile. Freedom of Information Act requests have exposed S-Comm as a program which has ensnared low-level offenders and non-criminals in a bid to deport the "worst of the worst." Boston has one of the worst rates of deporting the "worst of the worst" in the country. According to ICE Statistics, 52.73% of those deported between Nov. 2008 and Sept. 30, 2010 were non criminals. Only 10.67% percent of those deported were "the worst of the worst" or level 1 offenders.

In the face of these horrible statistics, and with Gov. Patrick refusing to voluntarily sign Massachusetts to onto S-Comm, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has directed Police Commissioner Davis to review Boston's involvement in the program. Davis, in turn, has asked the federal government to review the cases of non-criminals that have been deported under S-Comm.

The fact that Boston doesn't know exactly who's being deported under the S-Comm should be reason enough to terminate the program, not to mention the fact that we now have strong evidence of migrant communities in Boston being torn apart by this program. The fact that undocumented youth Lizandra DeMoura was ensnared by S-Comm is also further proof of the federal government deporting DREAMers despite assurances to the contrary from the Obama administration.

As long as the immigration system is broken and the federal government is refusing to act, localities shouldn't be forced to use their limited resources to enforce broken laws. The maxim that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere reigns true when it comes to local police enforcing federal immigration law. If unauthorized migrants don't trust the local police and don't report crimes, then we are all less safe. The Boston Police have broken a lot of trust with migrant communities by enrolling in this program and not telling anyone about until four years later. The review of the program ordered by the Mayor is welcome but the case of Lizandra DeMoura, among others, makes clear that Boston needs to terminate the program, now, and start rebuilding trust with migrant communities. Sign the petition if you haven't done so already.

Kyle de Beausset is a pro-migrant blogger at Citizen Orange.

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