On Tuesday, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously approved a bill that will limit the circumstances under which local law enforcement is required to hold individuals at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The effort undermines the federal Secure Communities program, which requires local law enforcement to share fingerprints with federal immigration officials. If an individual’s fingerprints show up in a Department of Homeland Security Database, ICE can ask local law enforcement to detain the individual for 48 hours so it can take the person into custody.
The D.C. decision comes at a time when cities around the country are taking a stand against harsh immigration laws like those seen in Arizona. Since cities cannot opt out of participating in Secure Communities, they are using a strategy of restricting detainment circumstances to fight against it:
“We want to be the anti-Arizona,” Sarahi Uribe, a D.C.-based organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told The Huffington Post. “Our entire campaign to get cities to break ties with federal immigration enforcement is an effort to be the opposite of Arizona.”
Opponents of Secure Communities, which is under ICE, say the program has the same effects as SB 1070’s most damaging provisions, by potentially scaring undocumented immigrants away from working with police.[…]
The newly-approved law restricts the period in which immigrants will be held from 48 to 24 hours, requires that ICE pay the local costs of incarceration and specifies that those held on detainers must have been convicted of serious crimes.
The city of Chicago is on its way towards joining D.C. and easing federal immigration enforcement within city limits. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) announced on Tuesday that he will also propose an ordinance that would restrict the circumstances in which local law enforcement can turn undocumented immigrants over to federal immigration authorities, noting that they would only be able to do so cases where the immigrants have serious criminal convictions or outstanding criminal warrants.
“If you have no criminal record, being part of a community is not a problem for you,” Mr. Emanuel said, speaking at a high school library in Little Village, a Latino neighborhood. “We want to welcome you to the city of Chicago.”
The mayor said the proposal was part of his goal to make Chicago the “most immigrant-friendly city in the country.”
D.C. and Chicago are not the only places where officials are fighting back against harsh immigration laws. Last week, California state senators approved the Trust Act, which is designed protect undocumented immigrants and push back against Secure Communities. The bill, awaiting action in the Assembly, would prevent local law enforcement officials from referring a detainee to ICE unless the person detained has been convicted of a violent or serious felony.