FAIR Testimony Opposed to DC Prohibition of Participation in Secure Communities Program
Testimony of John L. Martin
Special Projects Director
Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
to the Committee on Public Safety and
the Judiciary Council of the District of Columbia
July 12, 2010
Chairman Mendelson and Committee Members,
I speak as a District resident and on behalf of FAIR, a national non-profit membership organization representing more than a quarter million members including more than 300 District residents, in opposition to Bill 18-795.
The bill is termed the Secure Communities Act of 2010, but that title is a ruse, in fact the bill is intended to prevent the use of the Secure Communities program operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As the name of the program implies, the program is intended to make communities safer by enhancing the identification of criminal aliens being sought by federal authorities for deportation. Why would any community not want to do that? The effect of the bill, if adopted, would be to hinder identification of deportable criminal aliens and thus facilitate their activities in the District. This is a public safety threat that would affect all District residents and visitors
The sponsors of this bill appear to be responding to advocates for the illegal alien community, that my organization estimates may be as many as 35,000 in the District and a much larger population in nearby communities. The proposal to oppose the Secure Communities program is similar to an initiative in San Francisco, a city that claims the title of a “sanctuary” for illegal aliens. It is instructive that California’s Attorney General, Gerry Brown, denied the request of the Sheriff of San Francisco to opt out of the Secure Communities program. I have submitted a letter in which Brown explains his denial of the Sheriff’s request. He states, “I think this program serves both public safety and the interests of justice. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE’s program advances an important law enforcement function by identifying those individuals who are in the country illegally and who have a history of serious crimes or who have previously been deported.”
It is incomprehensible why the District would oppose the Secure Communities program unless it chooses to ignore the potential threat to the community represented by foreigners with a criminal record who are being sought for deportation. It is doubly incomprehensible given the fact that the District’s chief of police supports participation in this program. If the Secure Communities Act of 2010 is approved by the Council this will be a clear example of political rhetoric trumping public safety.
ICE has established a narrow criterion for which aliens it seeks to identify in the program. The focus is on the most dangerous criminal aliens, which it identifies as aliens who have been previously convicted of or who are currently charged with a Level 1 offense, i.e., a crime of national security, homicide, kidnapping, assault, robbery, sex offenses and narcotics crimes that carry a sentence of greater than one year. District residents would want to be assured that these aliens are not going to be released back on the street. Instead they should be put in the hands of ICE for deportation after having served time for their crime.
The Secure Communities program not only offers the potential to remove criminal aliens who represent a threat to the communities, it also offers the potential to contribute to national security by cooperating with federal authorities in seeking aliens who are suspected of involvement in a terrorist plot. Living in the crosshairs of international terrorist organizations, as we are here in the District, it would be inexcusable to let potential terrorists slip through the hands of the police.
The charge that the Secure Communities program would lead to profiling or disrupt families by placing peaceful illegal aliens in jeopardy of deportation is deliberately misleading. Persons with no criminal record will not fit the profile of persons being sought for deportation. While some illegal aliens who have not committed serious crimes will have their fingerprints on file and are subject to deportation, the Department of Homeland Security has made clear that those persons are of no interest to them.
FAIR believes that an overwhelming number of legal District residents would expect their elected lawmakers to give greater importance to their interests than to those of illegal aliens, especially those involved in criminal activities. District residents have a legitimate interest in being protected from unnecessary exposure to recidivist criminal activity and the threat of possible terrorist attack.
In addition, District residents have a legitimate interest in not facing unfair competition for jobs from foreigners willing to work off the books for substandard wages. The Secure Communities program will do nothing to satisfy this latter interest, but the members of this Committee certainly have the ability to take action that would satisfy that interest if they chose to do so.
FAIR’s estimate is that annually the presence of illegal aliens in the District and their children in public schools cost the DC taxpayers in the neighborhood of more than $310 million dollars most of which is associated with education of the children of illegal aliens. If the District were to adopt a requirement that employers verify the legal work status of their employees, it would discourage the arrival of new illegal aliens seeking jobs and over time encourage those already illegally taking jobs from DC residents to return to their home countries. In the process, by tightening the labor supply, employers would be encouraged to raise wages to attract legal workers especially for jobs where there is an oversupply of blue collar workers.
Even if Bill 18-795 made sense from a public safety perspective, which it does not, the bill suffers from a constitutional flaw. Pursuant to federal law, a government entity “may not prohibit, or in any way restrict” the sending to the federal government information regarding the immigration status of individuals. That prohibition is at 8 U.S.C. § 1373(a). If it adopted this bill, and prohibited DC police officers from sending identification information about aliens who have been arrested, the D.C. Council would be violating federal law.