Administration Announcement Falls Short

In Response to the announcement made by Senior Officials that DHS would review its caseload of 300,000 currently in deportation proceedings, Chris Newman, Legal Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, issued this statement:
“The administration has earned the President the title of ‘Deporter-in-Chief.’ We hope the statement today announcing review of the current caseload of victims of indiscriminate enforcement is carried forth. However, we have heard elegant statements of priorities before, and the problem is that those announcements have been belied the administration’s actions.
In order to fulfill its promises, the Obama administration must end policies like Se Communities that result in the criminalization of innocent immigrants who are Americans in Waiting like those who came before them. To date, the administration has pursued policies that are sowing and fear and devastation among immigrant communities, and it must reverse course to stop the Arizonification of the country.” …

U.S. Forced to Release New “Embarrassing” Documents On Controversial Se Communities Program

Judge to Hold Hearing Today as Government Tries to Withhold More Documents

New York – In the wake of protests and civil disobedience in Chicago yesterday and across the country criticizing the Obama administration’s Se Communities program, immigrant advocates called on the government to turn over remaining documents about the program sought in a Freedom of Information lawsuit and to halt the controversial program.
A batch of unredacted documents released by court order this week, which federal district court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin called “embarrassing,” included acknowledgement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys that they would have to “rewrite” memos on whether the program is mandatory for states and localities and revealed schisms between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the right of states and localities to opt out of the program. In her order, Judge Scheindlin chided the agencies for going “out of their way to mislead the public about Se Communities,” and pointedly stated that the “purpose of the [Freedom of Information Act] is to shed light on the operation of government, not shield it from embarrassment.”
The judge has not yet ruled on whether the government must release other documents relating to the legal authority to make Se Communities mandatory. Strikingly, the government continues to attempt to withhold documents that shed light on that policy. ICE will be back in court today arguing it should be able to keep secret documents relating to the agency’s purported legal basis to impose S-Comm on unwilling states like Massachusetts, Illinois and New York.
The documents are being sought in a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organization Network.
One previously redacted email chain of over 100 pages shows the director of Se Communities, David Venturella, dodging questions from Margo Schlanger, an important official from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL). When ordering release of this document, Judge Scheindlin observed that the exchange showed “clearly obfuscating” and “non-responsive” answers from ICE in response to a request for clarification from OCRCL about Se Communities policy. DHS000196-000317.
Another email chain from July 2010 discussing a draft response to Representative Zoe Lofgren’s letter requesting clarification on the agency’s opt-out policy indicates that the FBI was considering an opt-out option. The FBI had concerns that if no opt-out was allowed, states might consider not sending fingerprints to the FBI for other purposes. The email notes that “moving away from the mandatory stance” would require “S1” (Secretary Napolitano) and AG approval. ICE FOIA 10-2674.0002039.
The back-and-forth and deception was clearly frustrating to ICE officials. In an angry email dated August 6, 2010, a Se Communities employee comments: “We never address whether or not it is mandatory – the answer is written to sound like it is but doesn’t state it. It’s very convoluted – or is that the point? I’m all about shades of grey but this really is a black and white question…Is it mandatory? Yes or No. Ok, so not such an easy question to answer.” ICE FOIA 10-2674.0011165-ICE FOIA 10-2674.11171.
Commenting on the documents, Sunita Patel, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights said, “The previously redacted portions of these documents—now public for the first time—reveal the extent of ICE’s deceit and political game-playing in its communications with states and localities. Perhaps more disconcerting, though, is the confusion and flip-flopping within the agency about their own policies and plans for deployment of such a high-impact and unprecedented program.”
Added Bridget Kessler, an attorney with the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, “These newly unredacted documents signal that the fight is not over yet. ICE’s purportedly ‘mandatory’ S-Comm policy appears to lack a sound legal basis, and is certainly misguided and confused as a matter of policy. Massachusetts, New York and Illinois should continue to push the federal government to honor their rejection of S-Comm.”
Sarahi Uribe, national organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said, “Even as they moved full-speed-ahead with deploying this program across the nation, at times top-level agency officials didn’t seem to fully understand—or disagreed about—how the program would work. Everywhere around the country people are resisting—there have been walkouts and arrests during S-Comm hearings, rallies, and thousands of petition signatures delivered to President Obama. The time has come. It’s time to halt S-Comm.”
The groups said they will continue to litigate this case to obtain the full information about S-Comm that the public is entitled to.
Visit CCR’s NDLON v. ICE case page or the joint website, UncovertheTruth.org, for an index of the newly released documents, the text of the FOIA request, the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York and all other relevant documents.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org.
The mission of the National Day Laborer Organization Network is to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S. by unifying and strengthening its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Visit www.ndlon.org.
The Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was founded in 2008 to provide quality pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants facing deportation. Under the supervision of experienced practitioners, law students in the Clinic represent individuals facing deportation and community-based organizations in public advocacy, media and litigation projects. Visit www.cardozo.yu.edu.

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Authoritative National Report Condemns Se Communities Program

Today, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and others made public an authoritative report condemning the Se Communities deportation program and recommending its termination.
The report includes testimony from former District Attorney of New York Robert Morgenthau, heads of law enforcement, and victims of Se Communities like Isaura in Los Angeles whose 911 call for help resulted in her deportation proceedings.
In contrast to the DHS appointed taskforce which has failed to enlist the voices of affected communities, scholars, or critics on the subject, this report constitutes a real deliberative and representative review of the program.
The report recommends that the Se Communities be terminated, that the current OIG investigation of S-Comm be expanded to all ICE Access programs, that the Department of Justice begin its own investigation into the mysterious role of the FBI in Se Communities, and that states not be compelled to share biometric data with ICE.
The following statement can be attributed to the National Community Advisory Commission
“This report confirms what immigrant communities have long known. The program called Se Communities results in the opposite. Entangling local police in immigration enforcement is not just bad policy as the experts testify. Conscripting local police into immigration enforcement has provoked a massive civil rights crisis our country now faces. The only suitable approach is to end Se Communities.”
The Commission includes: American Friends Service Committee, Project Voice New England, Asian Law Caucus, CASA de Maryland, Center for Constitutional Rights, CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Rights Working Group, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, We-Count!
The report is available at http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/
Background on the Se Communities Program is available at www.uncoverthetruth.org and in a press brief at http://ndlon.org/pdf/scommbrief.pdf…

ICE Announcement throws discredited deportation program into further disarray and confusion.

DHS Cannot Rule by Decree
In a shocking announcement by ICE late Friday afternoon announcement where the agency announced its attempt to unilaterally nullify years of contracts and agreements with 39 state partners. The agency will inform state officials that participation in the controversial Se Communities program which is currently under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General and which is the subject of intense criticism, is mandatory.
Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network issued this statement:
“Today’s announcement confirms ICE’s status as a rogue agency. The level of deception involved in S-Comm so far has been alarming , but this moves things to another level. A contract is a contract—but apparently not when it comes to ICE.
A federal judge already found that DHS and ICE went out of their way to mislead the public about Se Communities. Today’s announcement shows that ICE also systematically misled the states, engaging in protracted negotiations–at substantial cost to the American public–for what it now claims are sham contracts.
All the deception in the world can’t hide the fact that the S-Comm is horrible policy. By entangling local police in immigration enforcement, S-Comm is criminalizing immigrants and leading to the Arizonification of the country. Ultimately, the announcement today only puts into further question the legal basis for the program. ICE can no longer be trusted to police itself.”

Se Communities Courtroom Battle Comes to a Head

New York, NY.
What: Courtroom Arguments in NDLON v. ICE FOIA litigation
Where: Manhattan, Federal District Court.
When: August 11th.
Next Thursday, August 11th, advocates will argue for the release of key documents the agency continues to withhold related to the Se Communities opt-out policies. Upon reviewing certain of the unredacted documents that are the subject of this challenge, Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin concluded in a scathing opinion, “There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Se Communities,” and ordered the agency to release certain documents that could not be withheld simply because they might embarrass DHS and ICE.

In the year and a half since the beginning of the FOIA litigation, the documents that have been released so far shed light on a secretive and over-reaching deportation program. As the dangerous scope and impact of the program has been uncovered, a consensus has grown calling for the program’s termination. Governors in Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have sought to opt-out of the program.

In an attempt to preempt the embarrassing documents that the court has ordered released and the conclusive results of the OIG investigation to be completed this winter, ICE and DHS have rolled out a series of cosmetic tweaks and a taskforce to “study” the program. These announcements have been widely condemned as insufficient given the civil rights crisis created by the program.

“If what we’ve seen so far tells us anything, it’s that ICE is an agency that cannot be trusted. The court has ordered ICE to release documents that FOIA gives the public a right to access. But the agency continues to stonewall and delay turning them over. The constantly shifting policies and lack of transparency about those policies, truly make it difficult to take what ICE says at face value. ” explained, Bridget Kessler, lawyer for Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network added,”DHS has far more interest in the politics of SCOMM than it does in developing a lawful policy that actually serves local communities. While DHS has moved at breakneck speed to advance a dubious program with media spin, it’s strategy in this litigation has been characterized by one word: delay. Thankfully, federal courts- and not DHS- will have the last word and will ultimately compel disclosure of information owed to the public and required by federal law.”…

Dept of Justice Sues Alabama, Needs to do so in every state

BIRMINGHAM, AL – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today filed a federal challenge to Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law. Modeled on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 but taking it to even greater extremes, the Alabama law is considered the most pernicious anti-immigrant state law to date.
The DOJ lawsuit follows on the heels of HICA v. Bentley, a class-action challenge asserting that the law is unconstitutional on multiple grounds, filed on July 8 by the National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of civil rights organizations. On July 21, the coalition filed a request that the court block the law from taking effect, pending a final ruling on the law’s constitutionality. The hearing to determine whether the court should enjoin the law has been set for August 24, 2011 in the civil rights coalition case.
The following statements can be attributed to various members of the coalition:
Pablo Alvarado, director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
“The suit filed by the DOJ is an acknowledgement of the civil rights crisis caused by the Arizonification of our country and deepened in states like Alabama and Georgia where they have built upon Arizona’s laws. We welcome the administration’s action but see it as treating the symptom rather than the . More easily than court proceedings, President Obama could bring relief to our communities with the stroke of a pen.”
Linton Joaquin, general counsel, National Immigration Law Center:

“Today, the federal government rightly asserted that states cannot lawfully ignore the U.S. Constitution and enact their own sweeping immigration laws. Alabama’s law – like its ideological predecessors in Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and Georgia – is an affront to our American and constitutional values. We welcome the federal government’s challenge, and we look forward to continuing our own legal battle to permanently remove this law from Alabama’s lawbooks.”
Sam Brooke, attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center:
“It has been clear from the start that this law is blatantly overreaching and seriously flawed. We welcome the federal government’s involvement in preventing this dangerous and costly law from going into effect.”
Cecilia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project:
“We applaud the government for taking action to stop Alabama’s anti-immigrant law. Today’s lawsuit will help protect the civil rights of Alabamians against legislation that mandates unlawful police searches and seizures in the name of immigration enforcement.”
Olivia Turner, executive director, ACLU of Alabama:
“We welcome the federal government’s effort to block Alabama’s unconstitutional HB 56. We hope this law will be enjoined, just like the law in Arizona that inspired it.”
Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney, Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice:
“It is encouraging that the Department of Justice decided to challenge Alabama’s anti-immigrant bill. This move sends a strong signal to Alabama and other states that the federal government takes its immigration authority seriously and serves as a warning to states considering these types of unconstitutional laws.”
Victor Viramontes, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund National Senior Counsel
“It is appropriate that the Department of Justice has sued to block Alabama’s illegal and discriminatory law that unfairly targets Latinos.”
Attorneys on the case include Brooke , Mary Bauer , Andrew Turner, Michelle Lapointe, Dan Werner, and Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Cecillia D. Wang, Katherine Desormeau, Kenneth J. Sugarman, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt, Michael K. T. Tan of the American Civil Liberties Union and Freddy Rubio of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama; Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney, and Vivek Mittal of the National Immigration Law Center; Sin Yen Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center; Foster Maer, Ghita Schwarz and Diana Sen of Latino Justice; Thomas Saenz, Nina Perales, Viramontes, Amy Pederson, and Martha Gomez of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network; G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric J. Artrip and Rebekah Keith McKinney. …

Brewer’s 1070 Countersuit is Counterproductive for Arizona

Phoenix, AZ. In response to the Governor of Arizona pressing her countersuit to defend SB 1070, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a litigant in the injunction suit against SB 1070 issued the following statement:
“Like Governor Wallace before her, Governor Brewer is choosing to stand on the wrong side of history with her defense of unconstitutional, regressive, and immoral legislation.
Brewer will lose in court and in the court of public opinion. Any short term political gain by scapegoating Americans in waiting will be offset in droves by future generations in Arizona who will have been inspired to wipe away the stain on the state caused by her repugnant, unconstitutional, and anti-American nativist crusade.
Yet, like a driver who refuses to admit they’re lost, the Governor refuses to turn around.
Governor Brewer’s inability to govern and failure to provide real solutions to the state’s problems will no longer be shielded by the diversion created by her spectacle of scapegoating.”
The Governor’s countersuit today precedes another event in court. Tomorrow, on the anniversary of the implementation of SB 1070, local leader Salvador Reza of the Puente Movement as well as Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, will face trial for their act of conscience that prevented Sheriff Arpaio’s raids on last July 29th….

President Obama’s Credibility Gap On Display at NCLR Convention

Washington, DC.
In response to President Obama’s speech today at the annual convention of the National Council de la Raza, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network issued this statement:
“Despite soaring rhetoric, the President’s unbridled enforcement of unjust and outdated immigration laws has contributed to an unprecedented civil rights crisis for our community. And his administration has deported over one million people, surpassing the total number of people removed during Operation Wetback. The President can now claim the title, deporter-in-chief.
We know ICE has gone rogue, but we’re starting to feel like the President is going rogue on immigration too. It is not enough for him to blame Congress or to bemoan the difficulty of his job. He can- and must- take action to protect members of our community who are under siege.
The President can use existing authority to move the country in the right direction. He should take swift action to prevent the Arizonification of the country by refusing to let local police act as agents of deportation. For example, the President should, as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has requested, immediately suspend the Se Communities program until the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General can complete her report. At this rate, President Obama’s S-Comm policy will go down in history with Eisenhower’s ‘Operation Wetback.’ Both have the same pernicious consequences, but one has a better speech writer.” …

Record Deportations Demonstrate Credibility Gap for President Obama

(Los Angeles) In response to the Associated Press article published today, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network commented,
“The alarming deportation statistics released in the AP report are a matter for national concern. The arbitrary enforcement of unjust immigration laws will widen the President’s credibility gap among Latinos. The President should either hold ICE accountable for belying his campaign promises, or the President himself should be held accountable. As the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has requested, the Se Communities program should be immediately suspended until the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General can complete her report. At this rate, President Obama’s S-Comm policy will go down in history with Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback.” Both have the same pernicious consequences, but one has a more clever name.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network has led efforts against the Se Communities program; litigating in federal court to uncover the truth under the Freedom of Information Act and coordinating the Turning the Tide campaign whose local participants have led to the states of Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts opting-out of the troubling programs because of the dragnet effect reported by the AP today.
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New Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes FBI Role in Controversial Se Communities Deportation Program

Opt-Out Policy for Se Communities Set by Obs FBI Panel, Not by Law
July 6, 2011, New York and Washington – Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic show that the controversial Se Communities deportation program (S-Comm), designed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target people for deportation, is also a key component of a little-known FBI project to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike.
According to the documents, S-Comm is “only the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the FBI ‘Next Generation Identification’ (NGI) project.” NGI will expand the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to add iris scans, palm prints, and facial recognition information for a wide range of people.
Jessica Karp of NDLON explained: “NGI is the next generation Big Brother. It’s a backdoor route to a national ID, to be carried not in a wallet, but within the body itself. The FBI’s biometric-based project is vulnerable to hackers and national security breaches and carries serious risks of identity theft. If your biometric identity is stolen or corrupted in NGI, it will be hard to fix. Unlike an identity card or pin code, biometrics are forever.”
The misrepresentations ICE used to sell S-Comm to states have been well documented and are currently the subject of a DHS Office of the Inspector General investigation. But to date, the FBI’s role in S-Comm has not been scrutinized, although the FBI has come under fire recently for adopting new, generalized policies that permit intrusive, suspicionlesssurveillance without adequate oversight.
Said Bridget Kessler of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic: “These documents provide a fascinating glimpse into the FBI’s role in forcing S-Comm on states and localities. The FBI’s desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary.”
Although the documents obtained raise many more questions than answers about the FBI’s involvement in S-Comm and S-Comm’s place in the broader NGI project, they do reveal the following key facts:
The CJIS Advisory Board, which oversees the FBI’s criminal databases, passed a motion in June 2009 to recommend that the FBI convert S-Comm from a voluntary to a mandatory program at the local level. At that time – and as much as one year later – ICE was still representing S-Comm as voluntary to state and local officials.
The FBI’s decision to support mandatory imposition of S-Comm was not driven by any legal mandate. In fact, the FBI considered making S-Comm voluntary, showing that it viewed opting out as both a technological possibility and a lawful option. The FBI chose the mandatory route not because of a statutory requirement, but for “record linking/maintenance purposes.” In focusing on mundane record-keeping issues, the agency failed to weigh any of the considerations that have driven states and localities across the country to withdraw from S-Comm, including the program’s impact on community policing, its association with an increased risk of racial profiling, and its failure to comply with its announced purpose of targeting dangerous criminals.
Both FBI and immigration officials have raised concerns internally that aspects of S-Comm may interfere with privacy and invade civil liberties. Notes from one meeting, for example, state that S-Comm “goes against privacy and civil liberties.” In another series of emails, FBI officials raised concerns that state and local users of the FBI databases would be surprised to learn that the FBI was using their data to perform searches that the users had neither requested nor authorized.
DHS may be using S-Comm to gather and store data about U.S. citizens, too. One of the newly obtained documents indicates that US-VISIT, a component of DHS may have considered storing certain information about individuals in violation of their own internal requirements and privacy laws. This may include the retention of data about the lawful activities of even natural-born U.S. citizens.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, “These revelations should disturb us on multiple levels: the lies, the shadowy role of the FBI, the threats to citizens and non-citizens alike, and the rampant potential violations of civil liberties. This goes far beyond the irreparable S-Comm program and opens a window onto the dystopian future our government has planned. With so much at stake, this process must at all costs be transparent going forward.”

To read our briefing guide and the related documents, please visit http://uncoverthetruth.org/foia-documents/foia-ngi/ngi-documents/. To read FOIA documents and information about the case NDLON v. ICE brought by CCR, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, visit CCR’s legal case page at www.ccrjustice.org/se-communities….