Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report he requested on the Secure Communities program and its operations. The report, entitled "Secure Communities: Criminal Alien Removals Increased, but Technology Planning Improvements Needed" (GAO-12-708) found that a growing proportion of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alien removals were attributable to Secure Communities, while ICE's tracking of data relating to arrests and removals of aliens needs improvement.
GAO also found:
* Despite requirements, ICE did not have a record of the state or local arrest charges for about 56 percent of the approximately 119,000 aliens that were removed during fiscal year 2011 and the first half of fiscal year 2012.
* Traffic offenses, including alcohol related offenses, were the most frequent arrest charges for aliens who were removed.
* Of about 183,000 aliens removed under Secure Communities from October 2008 through March 2012, over one-quarter did not have a criminal conviction.
* ICE has not consistently followed best practices in acquiring technology systems to track and determine the immigration status of aliens identified by Secure Communities. For example, ICE awarded IT contracts without fully defining requirements or a set schedule, resulting in millions wasted on an unusable system.
* To help determine if local law enforcement agencies may be making inappropriate or unlawful arrests that could lead to removal through Secure Communities, Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and ICE developed a Secure Communities oversight review process. Currently, they are conducting additional in-depth analyses of arrest, crime, and demographic data on jurisdictions that produced the most anomalous results.
Congressman Thompson released the following statement with the report:
"Given ICE's limited resources, I believe it is critical that Secure Communities, and programs like it, be focused primarily on removing serious criminal offenders. ICE must also guard against racial profiling and protect community-police relations. This report shows that as this program grows, it needs more stringent controls on its operation to ensure that it is implemented as effectively and fairly as possible."