Civil rights advocates say S-Comm reforms are spin, part of bigger FBI biometric tracking plan


In face of mounting criticism nationwide, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today changes to its Secure Communities (S-Comm) deportation program. These changes include protections for domestic violence victims, and immigrants who are pursuing legitimate civil liberties protections. They give more discretion to ICE prosecutors, create a new detainer form that stipulates in multiple languages that arrestees cannot be detained under an ICE hold for more than 48 hours, except on holiday weekends. The form also requires local law enforcement to provide arrestees with a copy, which has a number to call if they believe their civil rights have been violated. The agency also said it will provide civil rights training related to its S-Comm program at the state and local level.

Immigrant and civil rights advocates said the announcement shows that the administration acknowledges that there are serious problems with S-Comm’s design and implementation. But they charged that the announced reforms fall far short of the S-Comm moratorium that an increasing number of advocates and lawmakers, including California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, have demanded.

And some advocates expressed concern that the feds’ insistence on expanding S-Comm, in which fingerprints taken by local law enforcement agencies are automatically shared with federal and international databases, is proof that the program is the first step towards rolling out a much larger program called the Next Generation Identification (NGI) initiative.

Under the NGI, the FBI plans to phase-in the deployment of a host of new biometric interoperability capabilities to state and local law enforcement agencies within the next five years. And NGI likely won’t be limited to non-citizens and undocumented immigrants, suggesting that US citizens charged with a crime will also find that once their fingerprints are taken, law enforcement agencies will immediately compile a huge and internationally interconnected dossier on them, regardless of whether they are innocent of the charges.

Civil rights advocates also worry that local enforcement agencies’ participation in S-Comm will become inevitable because S-Comm is simply the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the NGI.
In other words, S-Comm is just the first of many additional information systems that are being made available to local law enforcement agencies to fully and accurately identify suspects in their custody.

And, according to the FBI/CJIS’s own documents, the feds have adopted a three-part strategy to deal with jurisdictions that do not wish to participate:
1.    Deploy S-Comm to as many places as possible in the surrounding locale, creating a “ring of interoperability” around the resistant site.
2.    Deploy S-Comm selectively to state correctional system facilities, permitting identification of Level 1 offenders who may have been arrested and sentenced in the non-participating jurisdiction,
3.    Ensure that the jurisdiction understands that non-participation does not equate to non-deployment.
In other words, though a local law enforcement agency is technically free to shut off, or ignore, the receipt of records related to the fed’s fingerprint-matching capabilities, the feds are already warning local law enforcement agencies that local officers may find themselves “deprived of substantive information relating to an arrested subject’s true identity, place of origin, and other pertinent data of significant law enforcement value.”

Ammiano, who is the author of California’s TRUST Act, which would allow local governments to opt out of S-Comm, said: “Today’s announcement by ICE is simply window dressing. How many more innocent people have to be swept up by the ironically named Secure Communities program before the Obama administration will change course? Talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform is not an excuse for continuing with a flawed, unjust program that is having tragic consequences for communities across the country. It is time for a moratorium on S-Comm pending a real review of the program not just PR spin from ICE.”

Professor Bill Ong Hing, immigration law expert at the University of San Francisco, stated, “The fact is, under our Constitution, immigration is a federal responsibility. Neither a state like Arizona, nor the federal government itself, can force local governments to act as immigration agents. Such measures compound the injustices of our deeply broken immigration system - and public safety and local resources are among the first casualties.”

And the Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU of California, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the California Immigrant Policy Center, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released the following joint statement:  "We are deeply disappointed by the inadequacy of the Administration’s response to the mounting body of evidence that the ‘Secure’ Communities program is damaging public safety and ensnaring community members. The painful stories of domestic violence victims and other innocent community members facing deportation thanks to S-Comm underscore that the program has simply gone off the rails. While today's announcement acknowledges that problems exist with the program, the measures outlined by the Administration are a far cry from workable solutions these problems. To announce “reform” before review is an exercise in politics, not policy. The administration should suspend the program and wait for the Inspector General report in order to develop fair and transparent policies.” 

“Before vital relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities are furthered damaged, before more domestic violence victims, street vendors, family members, and workers who are merely striving for the American dream are swept up for deportation, S-Comm must be reigned in,” the coalition continued. “For the sake of public safety and transparency, we need real solutions. We strongly support California’s TRUST Act, which sets safeguards the federal government has failed to implement and allows local governments out of S-Comm, and we continue to call for a national moratorium on this fundamentally flawed program."

In recent weeks, Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts, have either pulled out or refused participation in the program while numerous local governments have sought a way out of a deportation dragnet that harms public safety and has operated with no transparency or local oversight. And Ammiano’s TRUST Act, which also sets basic standards for those jurisdictions that do want to participate in S-Comm passed the state Assembly in May and the Senate Public Safety Committee this week.

During today’s press conference, ICE Director John Morton told reporters that “it makes sense to prioritize resources. We don’t have enough resources to remove everyone who is here unlawfully.”

But when the Guardian asked if the reforms address the community criticisms that S-Comm was rolled out as a way to catch serious criminals, but has been largely used to deport non-felons, Morton maintained the S-Comm has always focused on serious criminal offenders, but was never limited to that.
“We remove felony offenders at a higher rate than are convicted in the general population,” he stated. ‘But federal law does not provide that you can come here unlawfully and then commit crimes other than violent crimes.”

True, but local law enforcement agencies have repeatedly observed that you break vital trust with immigrant communities if they believe that contact with police, including  being arrested for crimes they did not actually commit, or arrests for very low-level misdemeanors, will lead to deportation.

“This feels like a non-announcement, and it’s far from reform,” said B, Loewe of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network. “You don’t put a collar around a snake and call it a pet.”

And SF Police Commissioner Angela Chan, a staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, said the reason ICE and the FBI, "are so crazy for S-Comm is because it’s the first step in a much bigger loop that will include citizens and non-citizens alike."

NDLON and the Asian Law Caucus are part of the coalition that is calling on the Obama administration to publicly oppose and terminate all programs that create partnerships between state and local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security; halt the development of the vast data gathering infrastructure that houses S-Comm, and inform the public of the current scope and purpose of its data collection and dissemination activities; and allow state and local jurisdictions to opt-out of S-Comm.

After today's press conference, ICE issued a press release stating that through April 30, 2011, more than 77,000 immigrants convicted of crimes, including more than 28,000 convicted of aggravated felony (Level 1) offenses like murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children were removed from the U.S. after identification through S-Comm.

“These removals significantly contributed to a 71 percent increase in the overall percentage of convicted criminals removed by ICE, with 81,000 more criminal removals in FY 2010 than in FY 2008,” ICE stated. “As a result of the increased focus on criminals, this period also included a 23% reduction or 57,000 fewer non-criminal removals.

ICE also observed that the agency currently receives an annual congressional appropriation that is only sufficient to remove a limited number of the more than 10 million individuals estimated to be in the U.S. unlawfully. “As S-Comm is continuing to grow each year, and is currently on track to be implemented nationwide by 2013, refining the program will enable ICE to focus its limited resources on the most serious criminals across the country,” ICE stated.

ICE further noted that it is creating a new advisory committee that will advise ICE on ways to improve S-Comm, including recommending on how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety or national security threat.  This panel will be composed of chiefs of police, sheriffs, state and local prosecutors, court officials, ICE agents from the field and community and immigration advocates.  The first report of this advisory committee will be delivered to the Director of ICE within 45 days.

ICE Director Morton also issued a new memo that directs the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to ensure that victims of and witnesses to crimes are properly protected. The memo clarifies that the exercise of discretion is inappropriate in cases involving threats to public safety, national security and other agency priorities.

And ICE and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) have created an ongoing quarterly statistical review of the program to examine data for each jurisdiction where S-Comm is activated to identify effectiveness and any indications of potentially improper use of the program. “Statistical outliers in local jurisdictions will be subject to an in-depth analysis and DHS and ICE will take appropriate steps to resolve any issues,” ICE stated.


Bay Guardianbots need to tell San Francisco's elected reps to stop taking any money from the federal government for anything until secure communities is ended.

Stand on principle progressobots, demand that your district rep stop all money from the federal government entering SF.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

Sounds like great rhetoric, Matlock. But the fact is that overall California receives 85 cents back on the dollar that it pays to the feds. Where does that money go? Basically war, and supporting red states that produce nothing of value. I'd be all for no money going to the feds, and no money coming back.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

The city should stand by it's supposed values, stop taking money from the federal government until it reflects perfectly our superior San Francisco values as defined by a handful of San Franciscans.

When right wing republican candidates get money from klansmen or some other kook group they are hectored in the media and media talking heads until they send it back.

I free associate things too Greg so don't feel bad. We are talking about the jurisdiction of the city and county of SF. An island nirvana.

It would be the righteous thing to do, a statement of principles, values, an example of right and wrong, outrage, community, putting people first, doing the right thing, a narrative of righteousness, speaking truth to power, sustainable empowerment, integrity of conceptual heuristics motivated by an alternative narrative based on...

I agree we need to stop spending on undocumented wars, but thats not the point.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

when those laws are unjust. The money isn't their money anyway. It's ours. We gave more of it than we get back, so the feds can suck it.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

--- Professor Bill Ong Hing, immigration law expert at the University of San Francisco, stated, “The fact is, under our Constitution, immigration is a federal responsibility. ---

Actually, the subject of immigration isn't mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Posted by Sophia on Jun. 18, 2011 @ 10:23 am

Which is the province of the federal government.

The SFBG is big fans of taxes, I wonder if they would tell the local authorities to ignore people who refuse to pay federal taxes when they pass through the system?

Posted by matlock on Jun. 18, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

Welfare , section-8 , wic. , etc. for illegal aliens & thier "anchor babies" !!!

Millions 0f un-employed & homeless AMERICAN families & veterans & -0UR- gov. REFUSES to ENFORCE -0UR- IMMIGRATION LAWS !!!

CALL -OUR- Congress @ 866 220 0044
E-verify -ALL- JOBS & GOV`t. PROGRAMS->section-8 , welfare , foodstamps , wic. etc. !
287g->NATIONWIDE TO FIND & DEPORT -ALL- illegal aliens to ireland , kenya 0r WHERE-EVER !
Call I.C.E. @ 866 347 2423 to REPORT illegal aliens & THEIR EMPLOYERS !
-ALL- illegal aliens from -ALL- COUNTRIES ARE CRIMINALS !
Visit- AmericanPatrol.c - Ojjpac.o !
"FREE FAXES" to -OUR- Congress @ NumbersUSA.c 0r CapsWeb.o !
google-> Work in the states build a life in Mexico -> To see that BETTER LIFE !

Posted by 86emmm on Jun. 18, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

Myth: Immigrants come here to take welfare.

Fact: Immigrants come to work and reunite with family members. Immigrant labor force participation is consistently higher than native-born, and immigrant workers make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than they do the U.S. population (11.5%). Moreover, the ratio between immigrant use of public benefits and the amount of taxes they pay is consistently favorable to the U.S. In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in public benefits. In another cut of the data, immigrant tax payments total $20 to $30 billion more than the amount of government services they use.

Myth: Immigrants take jobs and opportunity away from Americans.

Fact: The largest wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with our lowest national unemployment rate and fastest economic growth. Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for U.S. and foreign workers, and foreign-born students allow many U.S. graduate programs to keep their doors open. While there has been no comprehensive study done of immigrant-owned businesses, we have countless examples: in Silicon Valley, companies begun by Chinese and Indian immigrants generated more than $19.5 billion in sales and nearly 73,000 jobs in 2000.

Posted by Lisa on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

The link backing up this "and immigrant workers make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than they do the U.S. population (11.5%). Moreover," is dead.

So I don't know if they are counting working age member of the U.S. population. If they are counting all of the U.S population (the retired and the under age) instead of the working age, then that statistic is useless.

Also you conflate legal immigrants with illegal again.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

It is apparent that US citizens and Legal immigrants are not the priority of liberal bleeding hearts Democrats and their allies. ILLEGAL ALIENS will never cooperate with authorities because, ya know, they're ILLEGAL, that 's why. They'd rather keep quiet while our children are murdered, mugged and assaulted. They'd rather that their gangbanger nephews stay close to their ILLEGAL families in US, 'cause they can visit them in jail.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 19, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

Fact: The incarceration rate of the US born (3.51 percent) is four times the rate of the foreign born (0.86 percent). The foreign-born rate is half the 1.71 percent rate for non-Hispanic white natives, and 13 times less than the 11.6 percent incarceration rate for native black men.

Posted by Lisa on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

Overall, the US has the worst incarceration rate in the entire world by far, and I don't think it's because we have the most bad people, or even the most crime.

But I see what you're saying.

Personally, I wonder what exactly would happen if we just opened the borders to everyone? Maybe there'd be a big demographic shift. Ok. And?
Maybe we'd have to learn another language (imagine that).
But seriously. There was a time when you didn't need a passport or a visa to move to a foreign country. You just went and moved. Would the sky just fall if we went back to that time?
What is it that some people find threatening about immigration?

Posted by Greg on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

to pay that welfare bill.

Also, for people so concerned in general about the environment you open borders folks sure want to see the environment ruined with open borders and the following over population. I can think of a modern nation that has had open borders, its not 1492 anymore.

But we do have a mandatory recycling law in SF, that will fix that.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 20, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

Greg, I agree that incarceration is not the best measure of criminality, particularly when it comes to immigrants. The commodificaiton of human beings as fodder for the private for-profit prison industry is the main driver behind the policy of criminalizing immigrants. However, I think it helps to point out that immigrants have a much greater incentive to obey the laws and they generally do. I am just doing my part to fight the stereotypes because I think that's what allows us to dehumanize people and deny their rights.

Yes, there was a time when the border was porous. And nobody felt threatened by it. I'm for open borders. To me, human beings are more important than commerce which flows freely back and forth. I wish I had an answer to your question about why people find immigrants so threatening. All I know is that we have a long, dark history of fearing and persecuting people who appear different from us, it's irrational and racism is almost always a factor.

Posted by Lisa on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

Well, Lisa, how many ILLEGAL ALIEN CRIMINALS is acceptable, then? One, a hundred, a thousand? You tell me when I get close.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

Well, Lisa, how many ILLEGAL ALIEN CRIMINALS is acceptable, then? One, a hundred, a thousand? You tell me when I get close.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

STOP the ILLEGAL ALIEN MAFIA and their support of the liberal money hungry politicians.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 19, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

when you make up THINGS and put them in CAPITAL LETTERS.

Posted by marke on Jun. 19, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

YEP--CRAZY like a FOX! or a tax and spend liberal to help those who demolish and disrespect our laws, our society, our LEGAL immigrants or an ELITIST whose job will not be threatened by ILLEGAL ALIENS and their MAFIA! How many drug mules do you know?!?!?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 9:56 am

We should have known that this was the next step, yes? When we allow the persecution of immigrants, we should understand that it is only a matter of time before the policy is extended to the rest.

It's interesting to note that IBM and Lockheed Martin were the companies picked by the FEDS to institute this program. According to the press release, "'IBM and Lockheed Martin have a strong history collaborating in the Federal community and we are pleased to join their NGI team," said Dave Amoriell, General Manager, IBM Global Services, Federal." There is an incestuous relationship between the two companies. Loral Federal Systems is a subsidiary of IBM that was sold to Lockheed Martin.

IBM has a deplorable history of collaborating with the Nazi's to faciliate the genocide of the Jewish people during WWII. IBM's utilized national census data to target, deport, ghettoize, enslave and ultimately annihilate the Jews and other groups of people it deemed "undesirable". Their punch card technology helped the trains run to the concentration camps run on time, kept track of slave labor and the profits obtained from that labor.

Incidentally, the US Census Bureau turned over the names and addresses of Japanese-Americans to help U.S. government agencies identify Japanese-Americans during WWII. In 2004 when the Census also turned over information it had collected about Arab-Americans.

Anyone concerned about their civil liberties -- what's left of them -- should be very alarmed by the NGI initiative.

Posted by Lisa on Jun. 23, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

I would suppose that Lisa agrees with born Again Christians that planned parenthood is a Eugenics organization because many of the founders were pro eugenics.

The kooky left resembles the kooky right more and more every day. Logical fallacies, like the founders fallacy is a staple of the tin foil hat crowd.

Lisa yet again conflates legal and illegal immigration as well.

"First they came for the drunk drivers, who are like regular drives, but drunk. Then they came for the felons with guns, who are like regular gun owners but felons barred from owning guns because of felony convictions. Then they came for the bigamists who are married an extra time.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 23, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

I agree with you, matlock. It is telling how Lisa avoids direct questions and deliberately confuses issues and terminology. How is wanting closed borders equated with a genocidal holocaust? How is deporting ILLEGAL ALIEN CRIMINALS equated with being fearful of LEGAL IMMIGRANTS and people of a different color? Methinks that one is drinking too much tequila on her Easter break holiday in Cabo that she is still on. Typical non-argument that is specious and circular.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 9:55 am

Guess what? A few illegals and not of hispanic ethnicity messed it up for all immigrants period (Middle Easterns that were placed here prior to 9/11)!!! Guess what someone from America employeed these bastards that drove planes into WTC, good job! Cheap labor ehhh? Think about that one! The people that are fighting for immigrants civil rights were at one time illegal or parents were. I am natural born, my family has been here for over 120 years, if you are not from the US go home. Our economy will get weaker if jobs keep moving over seas and immigrants keep coming in search of work.....this is not rocket science....if you disagree with me fine. Think about this, YOUR job going to China or an illegal coming over gaining your civil rights and working YOUR job for $5.00 less that what they are paying you. Let them take food out of your families mouth directly, like so many other American families, then scream that they deserve the same rights! Bleeding heart liberals, morons! Look at the big picture! Again not rocket science!!!!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 24, 2011 @ 4:25 pm