Under a contentious immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, at least four U.S. citizens have been illegally detained in Los Angeles since November according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The deportation program began in 2008 and is a coordinated effort of local, state and federal authorities to identify and deport convicts who have committed serious crimes.
The four U.S. citizens illegally detained by law enforcement committed low-level offenses, yet immigration authorities requested that they be held in custody for an extended period. One of the men, a 40-year-old man who was born in Los Angeles, spent two extra nights in jail because of these requests. “I was telling everyone I’m an American citizen,” he said. “Nobody believed me.”
We don’t know specifics but it appears discrimination played a role in the man’s detainment, and this is just one of the controversial issues presented by the Secure Communities program. Civil and immigrant rights groups want local authorities to revise their policies for cooperating and complying with detainment requests made by immigration officials.
Local politicians are chiming in on the topic as well. “Native-born American citizens are being illegally detained by the Secure Communities program right here in L.A. County,” one California representative said. “This is unacceptable.”
The deportation program uses a shared fingerprint database put together by police and immigration authorities, but the program appears to be stretching the boundaries of its intended use. Many of the detained people under the program have only committed minor crimes and others have no criminal history at all.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “U.S. citizens get caught up in immigration enforcement program,” Paloma Esquivel, Dec. 14, 2011