U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintained a directive referred to as Secure Communities (Secomm for short) between 2008 and 2014. This program professed to establish a new direction for U.S. immigration enforcement, largely by enlisting local and state police to help detain and deport undocumented immigrants. However, it steadily declined in popularity after implementation, with the program eventually being discontinued in favor of a new initiative, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Modifications have been made; however, if you or a loved one is undocumented, it is still something of which you need to be aware.
How it Works
Many of PEP’s primary features do vary greatly from those in place under Secomm. If someone is arrested by state or local authorities for a criminal violation, then the fingerprints and biometrics taken at that time are forwarded to both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ICE. A hit at either agency may raise the urgency to deport that individual.
The main difference is in the machinery used to hold and transfer prisoners and detainees. Under Secomm, a process called an immigration detainer was used—basically, an indefinite hold was placed on a suspect until the federal government decided whether or not to arrest and charge him or her.
PEP uses two different forms—the standard immigration detainer, and a new form called a Request for Voluntary Notification of Release of Suspected Priority Alien (called by its number, I-247N). The 247N form, unlike a standard immigration detainer, merely asks a local law enforcement agency to notify ICE if a suspected undocumented immigrant is released from lockup. Also, if an immigration detainer is used on a suspect, a copy must be served on the individual, which was not formerly required under Secomm.
“A Danger to National Security”
Despite the improvements PEP has made to the Secomm model, many undocumented immigrants are still experiencing treatment that can be described as inappropriate. The program’s regulations state that normally, someone may only be held if he or she has committed a specific enumerated crime. However, there is an exception—if an alien is held to be a ‘demonstrable risk’ to national security, in the judgment of an ICE Field Director, then he or she may be subject to detainer. This can pose a significant problem, especially in areas where the issue of undocumented immigration are particularly hotly discussed.
Toward the end of Secomm’s usefulness, many local governments opted out of cooperating with the program, including officials in Cook County. As a result, several undocumented immigrants were released instead of taken into ICE custody, including one man, Saul Chavez, who killed a U.S. citizen in a hit and run accident. This tragedy was used as a tool to inflate anti-immigrant sentiment, with Chavez hyperbolically being described as a danger to national security, as a kind of avatar for all undocumented people. If hyperbole can be used to difficult ends in this affair, it can easily be used in such a way again.
Contact an Immigration Lawyer
If you or a loved one is placed in immigration detention by ICE or by local law enforcement, you will almost certainly wind up in removal proceedings if you are undocumented. Having the right immigration attorney on your team can make a difference. The Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC will work with you to see how best to handle your issue. Contact us today via phone or website to set up a free initial consultation.
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