Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced major changes to its signature (and maligned) immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities - promising to review pending immigration deportation cases based on newly-reinforced guidelines that prioritize deporting immigrants who commit violent crimes. The proposed changes provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents with guidance to consider factors such as whether an undocumented young person would be eligible for the federal DREAM Act; the severity of the misdemeanor or offense the undocumented individual allegedly committed; and whether or not the immigrant in question has close family members who are legal permanent residents or US citizens. State legislators and immigrant rights activists, who have long been calling for an end to the program, applauded the announcement while continuing to ask the program be dismantled and reiterating their support for comprehensive immigration reform from Washington.
Last week, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a decision stating their intention to mandate that states participate in the controversial, ineffective, and costly “Secure Communities” immigration enforcement program. This decision generated confusion and controversy given that the Secure Communities program had previously been described by DHS officials as a voluntary option for states. The announcement last Friday afternoon, which came as a surprise to many advocates, immediately invalidated the roughly 40 agreements that DHS had entered into with individual states or localities regarding their implementation of the program – agreements which the department once argued were required, but which are they now claim are unnecessary.
As comprehensive immigration reform remained stalled in Washington, D.C. in the first half of 2011, common-sense state legislators across the nation took up the fight in their legislative sessions, defeating expensive and misguided enforcement bills that targeted undocumented immigrants and their families. Despite the deluge of SB 1070 copycat bills promised by anti-immigrant groups, attempts to mimic Arizona’s anti-immigrant law largely failed, as did a far-right effort to rewrite the U.S. Constitution by revoking citizenship for children born in the United States. Encouragingly, state legislative sessions saw a wide variety of innovative and common-sense proposals that sought to expand opportunity for all residents, both immigrant and native-born, through approaches emphasizing access to education, workforce development, and community policing.