D.C. City Council Passes Law to Limit Entanglement with Secure Communities

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By Keith Rushing

A coalition of social justice organizations successfully urged the District of Columbia City Council to unanimously pass a bill Tuesday that will limit the city’s involvement with the controversial Secure Communities program.

Under the new law, the Emergency Detainer Act, people who are identified as having outstanding immigration violations when their fingerprints are collected following an arrest will not be held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] authorities unless they have serious criminal convictions.         

In addition, the district will only hold people for 24 hours instead of the 48 hours that ICE requests and DC will require that ICE reimburse the city for the costs of incarceration. ICE detainer requests are voluntary and cities and states are free to decide whether and how to fulfill those requests.

Secure Communities, which involves state and local law enforcement agencies partnering with the federal government for immigration enforcement work, has been shown to lead to racial profiling where people of color are targeted and suspected of being undocumented because of how they look.

Tuesday’s victory follows many months of work by various organizations including Rights Working Group and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network [NDLON] among many others.

Sarahi Uribe, an organizer for NDLON, who was a leader in this effort, told the Huffington Post: “We want to be the anti-Arizona. Our entire campaign to get cities to break ties with federal immigration enforcement is an effort to be the opposite of Arizona.”

Earlier this year, Santa Clara, Calif., and Cook County, Illinois limited their involvement with detainer requests. On July 5, the California state Senate passed the Trust Act, which would only allow the state to comply with detainer requests, if the person identified through Secure Communities has been convicted of a serious or violent felony.

In Photo: James Farrant, Executive Director of Ayuda speaking at a press conference Tuesday outside the Wilson Building, with advocates in the background, shortly before D.C. City Council passed the Emergency Detainer Act.

Photo Credit Natalie Patrick-Knox