Mayor, D.C. Council Take Bold Steps To Secure D.C.'s Immigrant CommunityNovember 21, 2011
Described as a Hero by those he has helped, Jai Shankar, father of a ten year old, has lived in America for 20 years. His son is a citizen. He is not. When his friend’s camera was stolen, Jai called the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Instead of seeking out the thief, the Police questioned Jai, determined he was out of status and held him for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). After more than five months of incarceration and two years of wearing an ankle bracelet, a cloud of deportation remains over his head. Last year, America set a new record for deportations, sending 400,000 to uncertain fates; breaking up families; separating children from their parents; making those exposed reluctant to cooperate with the police, even when facing domestic violence at home.
The Department of Homeland Security recently changed course for its failed Secure Communities Program. After rejections by state and local governments, the Department has unilaterally abandoned its so-called “voluntary” program and declared it a “mandatory” program. Those powers ordinarily reserved to the states are apparently being taken by the federal government. When the “voluntary” program was launched, Washington, D.C. was the first in the nation to reject it. Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and others followed. Under the new “mandatory” program, immigrants, like Jai, who have committed no crime or have committed a minor offense can be held for ICE, without ever having been convicted of anything.
In response, Mayor Gray issued an Executive Order which was soon followed by Bill B19-0585, The Immigration Detainer Compliance Amendment Act of 2011, unanimously endorsed by every Member of the D.C. Council, making clear that Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary community; that we will not allow the Department of Homeland Security to federalize our Police Department; and asserting that the program makes our communities insecure.
It has been a long-standing policy for years in the District of Columbia that there is a bright line between immigration and enforcement and local police. As Mayor, Marion Barry issued an Executive order to that effect in 1984 and Mayor Kelly re-issued the Order. Hardened, violent criminals will not go free, however, with these recent actions by Mayor Gray and the D.C. Council. The D.C. Department of corrections can hold those convicted of violent crimes for up to 24 hours for ICE, so long as there is a written agreement that ICE will pay for these holds. Holding individuals who might otherwise be released, pending trial, is an expensive undertaking and increases an already overcrowded jail population. The D.C. Council Bill also makes clear that the Department of Corrections has discretion in this regard.
Having helped the homeless, fed the hungry, assisted the elderly and disabled, Jai Shankar faces a future that is unclear. His son Sanjay may be left without a father in America. That does not make that little ten year old secure.
The affects of the mandatory Secure Communities Program was the subject of a Forum held recently at the UDC-David A. Clarke School of Law and co-hosted by the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. View pictures and learn more »