Fairness for immigrants issue: Rescind S-Comm MOA in NY

April 15, 2011 at 8:01 am 2 comments

This letter is being sent to the Governor of New York, to ask him to rectify an unjust policy in New York:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We, the undersigned community organizations are in the counties where the Secure Communities program (“S-Comm”) is now activated. This gives us a unique perspective on the effects this new program is having on our neighbors, friends, clients, congregations and family members. We are writing to provide you with information which may be helpful to you with respect to your stated goal of reviewing New York State’s role in S-Comm, and to request that you rescind the S-Comm MOA that New York signed last year.

Each of us can share individual stories of the devastating effects that anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric, crime and legislation have had in our communities. Over the last two decades Long Island has been besieged by anti-immigrant sentiments, hate crimes against Latinos, both citizens and immigrants, and recently, the brutal slaying of Marcelo Lucero. In the Hudson Valley, town councils and boards have attempted to introduce anti-immigrant ordinances and laws, causing fear and division…

As you are aware, organizations around the country, including national and local law
enforcement agencies and associations, are opposed to S-Comm and police collaboration in other
immigration enforcement programs, because they constrain police-community relations and
undermine community-policing initiatives. This fear of law enforcement is playing out in many
ways in our communities: for example, in Spring Valley where some immigrants are afraid to get
medical treatment and in Brewster where some immigrants are afraid to gather for civic meetings
and in many communities where victims of street crime, wage theft and domestic violence do not
go to the police for fear of being deported.

Government data from the implementation of S-Comm in other jurisdictions clearly
indicates that more than half of those identified and removed through S-Comm did not meet the
stated priority classification of “Level I” offender. In 2010 for example, only 15% of the 248,000
database hits were identified as “Level I” offenders. The immigrant families in our communities
have empirical knowledge of the horrific family separations and terror that these programs leave
in their wake. (In the downstate suburbs of Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Nassau and Suffolk,
almost one third of all children are growing up in families with at least one immigrant adult.)

They have seen their hard-working family members and acquaintances essentially kidnapped,
disappeared to other states and deported as a direct result of ICE operations that claim to identify
individuals that are a threat to public safety. The traumatic impact on the children left behind
when their parent is taken from them is almost unimaginable.

While the human toll of these operations is incalculable, the monetary costs to immigrant
families will be proportional to the depths of the shadows into which they retreat. Added to these
costs will be all those unreimbursed costs to our counties and municipalities for increased
incarcerations and holding individuals on immigration detainers. Local law enforcement agencies
will be liable for any civil rights or constitutional legal claims resulting from wrongful detentions,
or from holding an individual beyond the allowable 48-hour period. “Main Street” Hispanic-owned
businesses in towns where S-Comm has just been activated, are seeing customers scared
off by the newly omnipresent police patrol car parked in front of their business.

We know that our federal immigration system is dysfunctional. But instead of more and
more emphasis on enforcement, we are calling for rational policies that benefit our nation and our
communities. We again respectfully request that you rescind New York State’s MOA on S-Comm,
and in addition we are formally requesting a meeting with you to discuss coherent
policies and practices that truly protect our communities, and enhance our collective well-being.

Sincerely,
Luis Valenzuela
Executive Director
Long Island Immigrant Alliance

Betsy Palmieri
Executive Director
Hudson Valley Community Coalition

Sister Jeanne Clark
O.P. Coordinator
Pax Christi Long Island

Gail Golden
Co-chair
Rockland Immigration Coalition

and

PeaceSmiths, Inc.

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