The Wisconsin Department of Justice recently signed an agreement that could threaten the safety of illegal immigrants in the state. Wisconsin is now enrolled in a federal program called Secure Communities. Under this program, the state will collect fingerprint records from local arrests and turn them over to the FBI as well as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The stated goal of the program is to aid in the deportation of illegal aliens who commit major drug crimes or other serious offenses. However, critics of the program argue that it leads to racial profiling, wrongful arrest, and violations of due process.
We have recently posted about the implications of all of these injustices. No matter how you personally feel about the subject of illegal immigrants, it is important to pay attention to issues of police procedure. Violations of any civil liberties threaten the safety of all citizens.
This program could be seen as racial profiling because a significant number of immigrants who get arrested are never charged with a crime. However, once their fingerprints are turned over to ICE, they get deported based on their illegal status. If police are arresting individuals who have not committed a crime, they have violated due process.
We posted recently about the importance of constitutional protections against certain police actions. If police are allowed to arrest someone without charges or cause, it does not matter if that person may be here illegally. The action becomes a threat to every citizen's right to due process.
Furthermore, it is estimated that 37 percent of the illegal immigrants arrested and deported lack a criminal record. This seems to suggest that police are arresting Hispanic-looking individuals simply for looking Hispanic. This constitutes racial profiling, and it threatens the security and rights of all citizens.
Illegal immigration will continue to be a contentious issue, as will Wisconsin's decision to take part in the Secure Communities program. But no matter how citizens feel about either subject, each of us has a duty to hold police accountable for any violations of the law or the constitution.
Source: Milwaukeenewsbuzz.com, "Wisconsin joins controversial immigration program," Matt Hrodey, 18 January 2011