The Homeland Security department's Secure Communities program is meant to send illegal immigrants packing when they commit a serious or dangerous crime. It works by matching up police fingerprinting with Homeland Security records and activating the deportation process after somebody is arrested.

Secure Communities has been most heavily implemented in the counties on the U.S./Mexico border. Over the next couple of years, it's being phased in for use in metropolitan areas nationwide, and eventually across the whole country. It's currently active in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Marion counties, and the Oregon State Police has just agreed to implement it across the state.

The immigrant rights group CAUSA says the program is also used to deport people who have families in America, and that it scares them into silence.

"Because immigrants may fear being separated from their families and deported, they will be less likely to report crimes when they are the victim," says Francisco Lopez, executive director of CAUSA Oregon.

Dozens of people marched on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building near the North Park Blocks yesterday, chanting "Sí se puede" and calling for an end to the Secure Communities program.

CAUSA Executive Director Francisco Lopez (left) directs a group of marchers toward the Immigration offices.
  • CAUSA Executive Director Francisco Lopez (left) directs a group of marchers toward the Immigration offices.

"Comprehensive reform is the only cure," said Erik Sorensen, CAUSA communications director, as he walked at the tail end of the march carrying his infant child.

CAUSA rallied behind a comprehensive immigration reform bill that Earl Blumenauer and other House leaders embraced. Now, he said, the group is waiting for Senators like Chuck Schumer to take up the charge on their end.