The American public must be let in on what's going on behind closed doors regarding the federal government's attempts to preserve the full force of its controversial Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, a UC Irvine law professor argues.
"There's a public right to know about issues surrounding pending legislation," Jessica Karp, an adjunct faculty member at UCI, has reportedly said of "secret" meetings on "S-Comm."
Karp is a staff attorney at the LA-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, where the Columbia Law grad litigates civil rights and immigration cases and directs legal strategy for transnational advocacy against anti-immigrant state legislation. She also works with UCI's Immigrant Rights Clinic, which is representing the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) in a legal fight against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security.
The San Francisco-based civil rights group is suing over the federal agencies failing to comply with an ALC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed three months ago. The ALC wants to see materials that may indicate the feds put the squeeze on California Governor Jerry Brown before he vetoed the Trust Act last Sept. 30.
The bill that both houses of the state legislature passed last summer would prevent the pre-conviction sharing of fingerprints by law enforcement with ICE and only allow local police to detain individuals for ICE if they are convicted of serious crimes.
At issue are two meetings ICE officials had with Brown, one before the governor's veto and the other right after Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) reintroduced the Trust Act on Dec. 3. (The state Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill May 31.)
"The public has a right to know what information was given that may have motivated decisions on the bill," Karp reportedly told Inter Press Service's Charlotte Silver.
Because no such information from the government about those meetings has been flowing since ALC's Dec. 21 FOIA request, the group filed suit against ICE and Homeland Security in San Francisco District Court on April 9.
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"ICE has a history of misrepresenting facts about the Secure Communities program to the public and to state and local officials," reads the complaint. "ICE also has a history of attempting to influence state and local officials who seek to limit compliance with Secure Communities."
The overarching fear that the ALC, the ACLU and other rights groups have is that without the Trust Act and/or watering down of Secure Communities, immigrants will be reluctant to talk with local cops about crimes committed against them or that they witnessed out of fear they'll be deported.
Under Secure Communities, ICE agents tap into local resources to meet an agency deportation quota of 400,000 people each year, Karp alleges. Critics claim just over 250,000 people have been deported since the program was launched in 2008, and that it has cost municipalities in California $65 million annually.