Deportation Dragnet 

"Criminal Aliens" Crackdown Nets Non-Criminals

THIS MONTH last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) kicked off a new crackdown in Oregon: the "Secure Communities" program, which now checks the immigration status of anyone who's arrested. The program was sold as targeting "criminal aliens" who threaten national security, commit violent crimes, or otherwise pose a "serious risk to public safety."

But updated stats released last week show—locally and nationwide—that Secure Communities is still used less to deport high-level criminals than deport immigrants who committed no crime other than crossing the border illegally. Of those who were convicted of crimes before being deported, the vast majority are low-level offenses such as, for example, not paying MAX fare ["MAX-imum Punishment," News, Aug 26, 2010].

Romeo Sosa, director of Portland day laborer rights' group VOZ, says Secure Communities has made the immigrant community itself less secure. There have been cases in other states of illegal immigrants reporting crimes only to wind up facing deportation themselves.

"People, they don't trust the police anymore. They cannot report any crime or fight," says Sosa. "If there is domestic violence, some women are afraid to call police."

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