Is “Secure Communities” Keeping North Carolina Safe?

North Carolina is one of only nine States that implements the Secure Communities program statewide. This program, administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in collaboration with NC state and local law enforcement agencies, is intended to target and deport convicted felons who are in the United States illegally. The Secure Communities program in North Carolina has met widespread criticism, including that it results in marginalization of Latino communities, increases the incidence of racial profiling and distrust of law enforcement, and that it violates basic civil rights and legal protections to which immigrants in North Carolina are entitled.

In addition, Secure Communities has resulted in widespread detention of many non-criminal immigrants. According to a 2009 report by the University of North Carolina, traffic violations are cited as the most common reason for non-U.S. Citizen arrests in North Carolina. In Wake County (including Raleigh, NC), 64 percent of all North Carolina Secure Communities detainees who were deported to their home countries were not convicted of any crime.   Although the Secure Communities program in North Carolina is designed to catch convicted felons, in actuality the program has a significant impact on non-criminal immigrants, their U.S. Citizen and non-citizen family members, and larger immigrant communities as a whole.

Despite the controversial nature of the immigrant enforcement system in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and other North Carolina cities, more immigrants are being arrested, detained, and deported than ever before. Detainees in North Carolina are held in jail or jail-like facilities not for criminal reasons, but for administrative purposes while their immigration cases are being investigated. Many detainees have lived in North Carolina or the United States for decades, and have established their homes, lives, and families here.  Unlike individuals in criminal proceedings, immigrants in detention in North Carolina have no right to legal representation.  In response to this rising tide of criticism, in June, The Department of Homeland Security announced a series of steps it planned to take to reform the program. Many months later however, DHS has largely failed to implement these measures.

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