Panel Discusses Controversial "Secure Communities Program"
When Southwestern presented a panel of diverse participants to discuss the Secure Communities Program on September 22, the event elicited a powerful discussion and audience response.
Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center at the American Immigration Council, who served as panel moderator, said, "There's never a better a way to have a conversation about something controversial and passionate than in a law school, where the idea is to think about inquiry and debate and really try to get to the heart of the matter."
The diverse panel who gathered to present their views about the issue included: L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca; Chris Newman, Legal Program Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network; Nora Preciado, Staff Attorney, National Immigration Law Center; and Timothy S. Robbins, Los Angeles Field Office Director of the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Secure Communities Program is one of the hottest topics in the immigration community and the focus of much debate. When local law enforcement arrest and fingerprint an individual, those prints are shared with the FBI database which in turn communicates with ICE's immigration database. If the database reveals immigration issues, ICE can take action against the individual. Immigrant advocates and many law enforcement officials across the country contend that Secure Communities ultimately undermines public safety and operates without transparency or oversight. In mid-September, the U.S. task force charged with reviewing Secure Communities sent a list of recommendations to the Homeland Security Advisory Council to fix the program.
"We had a thoughtful, lively discussion about the Secure Communities Program and related immigration issues," said Professor Andrea Ramos, Director of Southwestern's Immigration Law Clinic. "We certainly created a buzz in the immigration law community and further strengthened Southwestern's role in the field. I was very happy to hear the positive response from students. As they delve deeper into immigration issues, they realize the complexity and challenges of the law. I hope it inspires them in law school and in their careers."