The Bronx Defenders Joins Advocates and Lawmakers in Condemning the Activation of Secure Communities Program in New York

May 15, 2012

The Bronx Defenders Joins Advocates and Federal and State Lawmakers in Condemning the Activation of Secure Communities Program in New York

The Bronx Defenders re-affirmed today its long-standing opposition to the activation of the Secure Communities program in New York. Under Secure Communities, individuals may be deported as a result of any arrest, even for the most minor offense, and regardless of whether they are convicted.

The Secure Communities deportation program is especially problematic in the Bronx, where discriminatory policing practices such as stop-and-frisk and racially biased marijuana possession arrests have already lead to thousands of unlawful arrests each year. By funneling non-citizens into deportation proceedings without due process or representation, Secure Communities raises the stakes considerably. Together, these policies make communities less safe by creating environments of fear and distrust of law enforcement, and unfairly targeting immigrant groups.

The Bronx is a borough of immigrants, and over 30% of residents are foreign-born according to the last U.S. Census. Robin Steinberg, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders, stated, “Given the over-policing and sheer number of arrests within the borough and the immigrant make-up of the community, our clients and their families will be especially hard-hit by Secure Communities. We call for the immediate suspension of the program. In the meantime, The Bronx Defenders remains committed to fiercely fighting for all of our clients’ rights, including their ability to remain in the country with their families.”

Under current policing practices in the Bronx, most arrests by the NYPD are for non-violent minor misdemeanor offenses. Nearly all of these arrests result in dismissals or non-criminal convictions that do not carry any jail sentence.

Jennifer Friedman, Supervising Immigration Attorney at The Bronx Defenders stated, “Under Secure Communities, identification by ICE and subsequent deportation are triggered by any encounter with law enforcement, including any arrest, even a traffic violation, and regardless of whether or not there is a conviction. This is an extreme and draconian system that doesn’t leave room for discretionary determinations. Secure Communities will not make the Bronx community secure; to the contrary, it will hurt the community by eroding trust in law enforcement, tearing families apart, and shattering lives.“

The Bronx Defenders is part of the “Stop S-Comm NY” Coalition, a diverse group of federal and state lawmakers, immigrants and advocates seeking to end Secure Communities in New York and around the country.