Tue July 19, 2011
Vote In Springfield Against "Secure Communities"
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – The city council in Springfield Massachusetts has passed a resolution urging that the city opt out of the controversial Secure Communities Program. The federal initiative where local police share fingerprint and other data with federal immigration authorities has been criticized by immigrant rights and civil liberties groups.. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The non-binding resolution urges the mayor of Springfield to decline to sign any memorandum that would commit the city to participate in the Secure Communities Program.. The sponsor of the resolution is Springfield City Councilor Amaad Rivera.
The resolution states that the Secure Communities program would deter the reporting of crimes, encourage racial profiling, and break down relationships with immigrant communities that have been carefully cultivated through years of hard work.
The vote Monday night to approve the resolution was greeted with cheers and applause by activists who packed the Springfield City Council chambers. Jeff Napolitano is the director of the American Friends Service Committee in Western Massachusetts.
Napolitano and other critics, contend that Secure Communities is a misnomer. Under the program, local police arrest records are checked against a federal data base of people suspected of being in the country illegally. The information is used by the US Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division to begin deportation proceedings. Federal authorities say the program targets violent felons, but Napolitano says the data shows 75 percent of the people deported were arrested for misdemeanors, or even traffic violations.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno had no comment. His spokesman said the mayor had not yet seen the resolution passed by the council.
Whether Springfield, or other communities can opt out of the program is unclear. The Obama administration says Secure Communities will be rolled out nationwide in 2013. It presently operates in more than a thousand municipalities in 40 states.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the Governor of Illinois, have ordered State Police not to participate.
Boston police piloted the Secure Communities program in 2006. But Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is now threatening to pull out, according to the Boston Globe. . In a letter to the Secure Communities Task Force, delivered earlier this month, Menino said the program had to be more transparent and limit deportation efforts to immigrants who have committed serious crimes.