This week the Obama administration announced that, yet again, desperately needed immigration reform will be delayed. This is truly terrible news for the thousands of families currently unable to reunite with their loved ones, and the millions of people across our country that have been forced to live in the shadows. In addition to this disappointing news, the New York Times published an editorial this week detailing the failure of the "Secure Communities" program and the deeply harmful impact it has had on communities across the United States.
Secure Communities is a federal initiative that was begun under President Bush and then expanded by the Obama administration. Under the program local police are directed to check immigration status on anyone arrested or in some cases just stopped by the police. Today, 3,000 counties are a part of the Secure Communities Program.
As the Times points out, the program rests on a couple very flawed assumptions: first, that once in the United States undocumented immigrants are more likely to break laws than the general population; and second, that by deporting them our communities would be safer places.
So, are our communities more secure due to the program? According to research by law professors at the University of Chicago and NYU (the first independent, empirical analysis of the program), the answer is no. Following five years of research, their study, to be published in The Journal of Law and Economics, concluded, “Secure Communities led to no meaningful reductions in the F.B.I. index crime rate. Nor has it reduced rates of violent crime – homicide, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault.” Even worse, the program has led to widespread profiling by police and in many places irrevocably damaged community relations with local law enforcement.
Racial profiling and criminalization of immigrant communities is one more egregious example of our overreliance on the criminal justice system. Not only has the Secure Communities program failed to make our communities safer, it has torn families apart, forced millions further into the shadows and threatened the civil liberties of thousands of citizens and non-citizens alike.