April 15, 2011

As the rogue, dragnet reality of ICE’s “Secure Communities” program is unmasked across the country…


Smart Enforcement Act would allow counties to opt out of “Secure Communities,” ensure transparency and focus within the program Today, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the Smart Enforcement Act (HB 929) on a vote of 66-43. Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Burke, this legislation enjoys the support of law enforcement, religious leaders, and hundreds of community organizations across the state. HB 929 would give counties the choice whether to participate in the federal “Secure Communities” program; offer a full accounting of the program’s impact and costs to local law enforcement; and require that this program be used only to deport convicted criminals. The following is a statement by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR):

The Illinois House of Representatives has sent a powerful message that will resonate across the country.  For the first time, a state legislative body has stood up to the overreach of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its flawed, destructive “Secure Communities” program.  We thank the members of both parties in the Illinois House of Representatives for approving the Smart Enforcement Act, and in particular thank Rep. Burke for his tireless efforts in building support for this important piece of legislation.

In the absence of Congressional action on immigration reform, the Department of Homeland Security continues its record pace of deportations.   ICE has represented the “Secure Communities” program as a tool for catching “the worst of the worst” criminals.  In Illinois, however, 46.5% of people arrested by ICE under this program have never been convicted of a crime; another 31% have only minor convictions.  In addition to misrepresenting the impact of the program, ICE has tried to press Cook County and other communities across the country to participate, despite local trust-building laws and policies that protect immigrant families who seek police protection and want to report crimes and help with prosecutions.

The Smart Enforcement Act will make the “Secure Communities” program conform more closely to President Obama’s and ICE’s stated priorities of, in the president’s words, “focusing primarily on criminals.”  In doing so, it will make this program more accountable to local taxpayers, who will know that their law enforcement resources are not being used to wreck hard-working immigrant families.  And it will make sure that ICE enforcement programs are less likely to provide opportunities for targeting of Latinos and other forms of racial profiling.

The Smart Enforcement Act now moves to the Senate to be voted in the next few weeks. We urge Senators from both sides of the aisle to support this legislation.

ICIRR along with members and allies will continue working on state level initiatives and national efforts to stop dragnet deportations, including joining the nationwide call to President Obama to stop the deportations of immigrant workers and youths and the separation of their families.


The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a state wide coalition of 138 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.