Safe Horizons, the largest assistance agency for victims of domestic violence in New York City, no longer is advising clients to contact the police if they are undocumented immigrants, reports Women’s eNews. The federal Secure Communities program is changing the rules, says Lynn Neugebaeur of the Safe Horizons Immigrant Law Project. “We want people to report crimes, but on the other hand, we don’t want them to be innocently picked up and deported for doing what an ordinary citizen would do,” Neugebaeur said.
Secure Communities grants state and local police access to Department of Homeland Security’s immigration databases to crosscheck fingerprints when they make an arrest. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is alerted if the person is found to be undocumented. Secure Communities has removed about 58,300 convicts from the U.S. since its pilot launch in late 2008. Some 28 percent of those transferred to ICE custody under Secure Communities from October 2008 through June 2010 were non-criminals. Some of the detained people are victims of domestic and sexual violence. Secure Communities is present in counties in 38 states. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says opting out isn’t an option.