Six Youth Arrested at Demonstration Against ‘Secure Communities’

Police official arrests a youth protestor after a sit-in demonstration against the controversial deportation program Secure Communities

Immigrant advocates gathered in protest, where six youth were arrested, after attending a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) task force hearing on Wednesday, August 17, held to address the issue of the federal deportation program, Secure Communities.

The hearing, one of several held in other cities across the country, was organized in efforts to gather community feedback in regards to the controversial immigration program.

Undocumented youth and other community participants were able to testify while Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials listened.

“After a line of speakers, everyone was invited to walk out and protest Secure Communities,” said Carla Argeta, a young protester affiliated with the Center for New Community, as she walked out with a group of youth from the IBEW local 134 building where the hearing was held. “We tried to get the people who were outside to get inside but they wouldn’t let them because they said something about capacity though there were empty chairs.”

Anti-deportation protestors performed a sit-in demonstration to block the intersection of Washington St. and Des Plaines Ave. and later moved towards the I-90/94 Washington exit.

Photo by Karla Avelar, youth journalist

On August 5, the Obama administration confirmed that it would force all local law enforcement agencies to participate in the debated Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.

Launched in 2008, Secure Communities began as a fingerprint-sharing program between local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to target and deport individuals convicted of serious offenses.

According to pro-immigrant groups, the system is a mechanism to also deport undocumented individuals with minor traffic violations and other minor offenses.

An earlier statement by the National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) explains that for over two years DHS has tried to convince local governments to join in the Secure Communities program.

Last spring Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced their resistance to participate in the program given its high operating cost and its negative consequences on community policing.

Obama’s administration however, is terminating all existing, previously signed agreements by state governments, stating they are unnecessary to establish local law enforcement participation in the federally mandated program, according to NIJC.

Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart stated in an interview with WBEZ on July 15 that he does not like to hold inmates for the purpose of turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because, in a way, it thwarts the relationship between residents and the local police when fighting crime.

“It does not lend itself to a sense of community where people will gladly come to you with information about crimes, get involved as a witness, even come forward as a victim, frankly,” Dart stated to WBEZ.

Photo by Karla Avelar, youth journalist

WBEZ reports explain that Dart has taken steps to reduce the jail’s role in immigration enforcement. The jail has put up large signs — in English, Spanish and Polish— informing new inmates they have the right to remain silent about their immigration status. Every day, according to Dart, ICE requests that the jail hold certain inmates two extra days so the agency can put the detainees into deportation proceedings. The jail ends up turning over about a half-dozen inmates to ICE each day.

Last Spring, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) sent out a statement from Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County, Illinois, a Republican, outlining his lack of support for the secure communities program.

Photo by Karla Avelar, youth journalist

“ICE’s own numbers show that Secure Communities is being used to deport people based on immigration violations rather than criminal convictions.  This program is diverting limited local law enforcement resources from our main job of catching and prosecuting criminals,” said the statement.

As part of a national day of action immigrant groups have been organizing different demonstrations against the federal deportation program.

“The biggest thing we can do as a community is get educated about the issue because this affects everybody,” said Jose Alonso, staff attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. “Right now the leaders of the movement are our youth and it’s important to get connected to that to understand the injustices that are happening. Only by action are we going to be able to create change.”