Arizona-Style Immigration Rules Threatening In Miami, Advocates Warn

On Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed an immigration bill into law that would be the laughingstock of the nation if it weren't so damn disturbing.

Essentially, it legalizes racial profiling by allowing Arizona lawmen to stop anyone "suspicious" (read: brown-skinned) to demand their federal immigration papers. Many are already predicting a Hispanic exodus to more welcoming territory.

But Miami might not be so far behind Arizona, local immigrant advocates warn.

In a downtown event set to kick off around 11 a.m., advocates will point to an ICE program called Secure Communities (which we reported about here) as evidence that local cops are already too wrapped up in the immigration fight.

Under the program, anyone booked into jail in 26 Florida counties is automatically run through a federal immigration database. 

ICE says Secure Communities fast-tracks only those with dangerous records into deportation proceedings, but advocates dispute that and contend the vast majority of immigrants caught by the program are not criminals. 

A new survey by the Florida Immigrant Coalition and other groups shows that since Secure Communities began last year, immigrants in South Florida report widespread distrust of local law enforcement. That sets a dangerous stage for Arizona-style regulation, the center warns.

"As we have seen in Arizona, a small amount of ICE collaboration with local law enforcement agencies is a slippery slope to completely eroding the trust of immigrants," the report says. 

ICE, in turn, says the coalition has completely missed the point of the Secure Communities program.

"Because of Secure Communities, there are fewer murderers, rapists and drug dealers walking streets of our cities," says Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for ICE. "It's about information sharing with local law enforcement agencies so they have all the facts about people in their jails."

Navas says that since Secure Communities began in October 2008, more than 18,000 violent aliens nationwide have been caught and 4,000 have been deported.

But advocates say ICE has been less than forthcoming about the program. In addition to the violent criminals, they say, scores of illegal immigrants who were never convicted of any crimes have been caught into deportation proceedings by the program.

What's more, they worry that linking local cops and sheriffs into an immigration database gives them incentive to arrest anyone who looks foreign, just to run them through the system.

"Whether innocent or guilty, they're going to be run through this system," Charu al-Sahli, statewide director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, told us last summer. "We all agree with the goal of getting violent criminals off the street, but in practice, we're going to see a lot of people deported over insignificant crimes."

Navas, meanwhile, says Secure Communities actually discourages racial profiling because everyone is run through the same system.

"[It] actually reduces the opportunity for racial and ethnic profiling because fingerprints of every individual arrested and booked into custody are checked against immigration records," she says. "It's a colorblind system."

The coaltion today filed a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act request with Miami-Dade County Corrections that aims in part to discover the number of illegal immigrants who have been caught by Secure Communities even though they weren't convicted of any other crimes.

Read the full report here:


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