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Pablo Alvarado Headshot

When War is Peace and 'Secure Communities' Means 'Deportation': Orwell as Advisor to the President

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When President Obama visited my native country of El Salvador he spoke of legalization while back in the US Salvadorans like Maria Bolaños face deportation.

Maria, like too many others, may be deported because of backward police work that booked her into a Prince George's County Jail in Maryland after she called for help during a domestic violence dispute.

She has no charges against her and has not been conviction of any crime. Yet, the County's participation in a finger-print sharing program that the federal government promotes as its primary tool to remove "high-level threats" is the reason she's now threatened with being separated from her infant daughter.

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In a recent report, Prince George's County ranked #2 for counties deporting people with no criminal convictions via the "secure communities" program. In seeing those numbers, lawyer Bridget Kessler at Cardozo School of Law says they "raise how S-Comm may allow local police to cover up profiling and circumvent due process."

The President and the immigration agency under his authority have promoted themselves as the smarter, more focused enforcers. ICE came before Congress in 2008 to ask for funds for the newly minted "secure communities" program to "prioritize enforcement actions on those posing the greatest threat to public safety." On March 9th, 2011 ICE issued its latest press release about the program to announce that several counties in Iowa would benefit from their new ability to "remove aliens convicted of a crime."

The facts, however, show their emphasis is more on spin than safety. Just two days after the Iowa announcement, Director of the program, John Morton testified to Congress, "We do in fact remove non-criminals through Secure Communities."

Contrary to ICE's claims, a program that drives domestic violence survivors to stay with abusers rather than risk deportation at the hands of local law enforcement has nothing to do with improving our public safety.

The dishonest double-speak of Immigration and Customs Enforcement may not be new but it is consistent and costly.

In places like Boston, Massachusetts 1 in 2 people deported under the secure communities program have no criminal convictions whatsoever. Yet Congress is considering $64 million dollars of funding in next year's budget on the basis of its criminal-focused precision.

And last week, President Obama advocated for legalization to Salvadorans abroad, saying that the undocumented in the Unites States should have a pathway "to get right with the law." Yet, the program he champions results in the law sending chills through immigrant communities that wall us off from needed services and erodes public safety for all Americans.

While George Bush was advised by Dick Cheney, it seems like President Obama has been reading 1984.

If the President wishes for his platform to be anything other than Orwellian double-speak, he needs his domestic policies to match his statements abroad. To start, he should take a page from the bills in California and Illinois. Those states are moving legislation that would reign in the rogue enforcement agency, protect juveniles and victims of crimes, and prevent racial profiling. Even better, do as the Mayor of Providence and decide to opt-out of the program all together. He could use his executive authority to end the police/ICE collaborations that empower bogeymen turned Sheriffs to haunt our communities like Arpaio in Maricopa County.

Studies have shown that immigrant communities are among the safest in the country. We are honest, hard working people proud to contribute our work and our cultures to take the country forward. It turns out it is not immigrants who need to get "right with the law," its our President and his harmful policies that make us all less secure.

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