LatinoJustice Applauds Cuomo’s Decision to Stand Up for NY Immigrants’ Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 2, 2011

CONTACT: Madeline Friedman, Media Relations Coordinator, 212-739-7581, 201-600-1397 or mfriedman@latinojustice.org.


LatinoJustice PRLDEF applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent decision to stand up for the civil rights of New York’s millions of immigrant residents.

Cuomo announced today that the state will suspend New York State’s participation in the controversial federal Secure Communities program, which the state had entered into in 2010 without any prior notice or public input or review.

Latino activists and elected officials have called upon President Obama to place a moratorium on the program’s implementation.

Secure Communities was designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes and flag them for deportation. In reality, though, data has shown that the program has led mostly to the deportation of immigrants who are not serious criminals at all, and at worse have committed minor violations.

“The secure communities program unjustly rips apart families and encourages discriminatory racial profiling practices by police,” said LatinoJustice PRLDEF President and General Counsel Juan Cartagena. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for standing on the side of civil rights in this battle, and we are pleased that governor Cuomo has decided to continue New York’s great tradition of being a welcoming place for immigrants.”

Earlier this year LatinoJustice PRLDEF was one of several civil rights groups that sent a letter to the Governor, explaining how Secure Communities would actually have a negative impact on crime-fighting efforts and contravene community policing efforts championed by many law enforcement professionals because it would lead many in the immigrant community to be fearful to contact police, or use emergency services for fear that they would be reported to the federal immigration authorities and deported through the program. Secure Communities requires local police departments to transmit finger print data of anyone arrested to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).

“Our concern at LatinoJustice is that the discretion given to law enforcement to target immigrants who commit serious crimes will result in an abuse of discretion against ALL undocumented persons, regardless of criminality,” Cartagena said. “The Secure Communities program, like the 287g program and like the current practices at Riker's Island, all point to the same criminalization and profiling of our nation's Latino immigrants."

The Inspector General's Office of the Department of Homeland Security recently announced it is investigating the Secure Communities program, echoing concerns raised by LatinoJustice and other advocate groups, along with government and law enforcement officers.

Last month Illinois became the first state to temporarily withdraw from the program. It is still unclear if any state can permanently withdraw. It is still unclear if states or local communities can withdraw or decline to participate in Secure Communities which is presently voluntary as Department of Homeland Security officials have issued conflicting statements on whether it is voluntary or will be compulsory in all states.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF will continue to work with the governor to ensure that the civil rights of all immigrants in New York are protected.

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