July 3, 2012—Today, advocates released emails from the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) that show that ICE’s controversial Se Communities deportation program is sweeping in individuals who have never been criminally arrested. The emails—which were obtained as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic—show that people who are unable to satisfactorily identify themselves at drivers’ license checkpoints, but are not suspected of any criminal conduct, are nonetheless processed for deportation through Se Communities.

According to the emails, in May 2011, California attempted to obtain assurance from ICE and the FBI that “the [Se Communities] Program will only affect persons who are arrested for a crime, and not those who may simply be stopped at a drivers’ license checkpoint.” Instead of providing the requested assurance, the FBI apparently informed California that even prints for individuals who had been arrested for identification purposes only would have their immigration status checked through Se Communities. Moreover, the FBI informed California that, although it was technically possible to change this process, it would not do so.

The audacity of this response was not lost on federal officials, who acknowledged that the “answer is going to create an issue,” and that “DHS/ICE” had previously made “abundantly clear . . .” that Se Communities “is only for individuals being booked into jail.”

In fact, ICE had initially claimed in an agreement signed with California that S-Comm’s focus was those “convicted of serious offenses.” Last August, in what advocates regard as a significant display of bad faith, ICE shredded all such agreements but claimed fingerprint sharing was nonetheless “mandatory.”

The emails were originally disclosed in heavily redacted form in August 2011. Less redacted versions were disclosed in June 2012. This is the first time they have been publicly released.

Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said: “This is the latest proof that Se Communities is not a targeted immigration enforcement program, but a deportation dragnet. California must take action to protect its residents against this Arizona-like program. We call on the California Senate to pass the TRUST Act to restore a bright line between criminal and immigration enforcement.”

Sonia R. Lin, Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, said: “Se Communities turns drivers’ license checkpoints into a ‘show me your papers’ demand.  California’s leaders should heed the law enforcement leaders across the country and prioritize true public safety by standing up to Se Communities.” 

FOIA Documents Released July 3, 2012:

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