Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sheriff Continues Work With Federal Government (The Post-Journal)

Sheriff Continues Work With Federal Government
Local Law Enforcement Submits Data Despite State Suspending ‘Secure Communities’ Program

June 12, 2011
By Andrew Carr, The Post-Journal

New York State's involvement in the "Secure Communities" program was recently suspended, but locally the program continues with the federal government.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suspended the state's involvement in the program, offered through the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but according to Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace, his office is still submitting data on the federal level.

"We continue to transmit data to the federal government," he said. "And if they identify individuals, they would notify us, so our participation continues, and there is no change in protecting the local community. Notifying the state Homeland Security Office is not involved, it goes to the feds directly, until such time that the governor gets clarification on some issues."

Gerace said he supports looking into the issues that have arisen.

"We support Gov. Cuomo's action today in suspending 'Secure Communities' until the numerous questions, including a federal Inspector General's investigation, can be resolved," he said. "Sheriff departments rely upon a partnership with the communities that they serve to ensure public safety for us all. The questions that have surrounded the implementation of 'Secure Communities' jeopardizes that relationship. We are confident that the procedures we currently use and the strong relationship we currently have with federal, state and local authorities will ensure that we can keep our communities safe while also maintaining our relationship of trust."

There are many reasons why the decision to suspend participation has been made, chief among them is immigrant rights activists calling the program into question because they say it is being used to deport immigrants under false pretenses.

"The stated purpose of the program was to identify and remove illegal aliens convicted of serious crimes, however the vast majority of immigrants deported under the program to date have never been convicted of any crime," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

"There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York," Gov. Cuomo said. "As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program."

The ACLU and immigrant rights groups have submitted to the state their belief that the detainers used in these cases are unlawful and that immigrants are being illegally detained.

"We should not tolerate 'Secure Communities' in any form because it funnels people directly into an unjust deportation system, while jeopardizing public safety and violating due process rights," said Mizue Aizeki of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. "More than anything, we all need to recognize that it is unfair for immigrants to face deportation as a second punishment for having contact with the criminal justice system."

Locally, there has been only one confirmed case where the program has been used, said Gerace.

"We have only had one confirmed case since we instituted it, however, that individual is charged with serious local law violations," he said. "The big problem in the eyes of the ACLU, is that these detainers that are being sent down are on their face, invalid. They are warning sheriffs not to get into civil liability, and we have not faced that problem to date."

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