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via Physicians for Human Rights (@P4HR): #SComm’s Unintended Side Effects

August 18, 2011

Reposted from the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) blog:

On February 6th, 2011, 20-year-old Isaura Garcia called 911 from her apartment in Hollywood, California. She was being beaten again by her boyfriend and thought that this time he might kill her. When the police arrived on the scene, Isaura tried to explain, with her limited English, what had happened, but the police didn’t believe her story and ended up arresting her for domestic violence. She was brought in for booking and, in accordance with the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, her fingerprints were crosschecked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) central database. The system revealed that she was an undocumented immigrant, and Isaura was immediately put in deportation proceedings.

Stories like Isaura’s highlight some of the major problems with S-Comm. Even though the explicit goal of S-Comm is to improve public safety by increasing deportations of undocumented criminals, in practice the program catches many non-criminals in its net and can actually decrease public safety by eroding trust between immigrants and local police. Mistrust between police and immigrant communities can lead to underreporting of crimes, leaving these communities vulnerable to violence and impairing officers’ ability to investigate and solve crimes. In fact, Isaura admits that, if she had known about S-Comm, she would have avoided calling 911. As she puts it, “I never would have called had I known I could face deportation.”

Another consequence of S-Comm is its impact on the mental and physical health of immigrants. It has increased fear of deportation in many communities, not only among undocumented immigrants, but also among their US citizen children and networks of families and friends. This pervasive fear leads to social isolation and health care avoidance. Healthcare avoidance and social isolation can limit patients’ ability to prevent the onset of diseases; avoid costly, catastrophic health problems; manage chronic disease; and minimize the spread of contagious diseases that pose public health threats (tuberculosis, flu, etc). Chronic stress and anxiety also contribute to increased cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, chronic pain, and decreased immune function. As Isaura puts it, “Secure Communities turned my life upside down.” The stress and strain have negative effects on the health of the entire community, including the lives of her family and her 1-year-old daughter.

Started in 2008, S-Comm is currently in effect in over 1,000 jurisdictions across the US and is poised to grow rapidly. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced its intention to expand the program nationwide, and has denied the requests of a number of states and cities to opt out of the program. In the face of this expansion, many communities and immigrant rights groups have begun to debate the legitimacy of S-Comm, sounding the call to terminate the program. Health professionals can play a critical role in this debate by learning about the issue, paying attention to the ways S-Comm affects patients and communities, and by advocating for government action to respect human rights and promote immigrant health.

Sign the petition to put a moratorium on Secure Communities.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2011 11:30 am

    just imagine for a moment if african americans decided to escape to canada instead protesting and fighting for change. I question latinos motives for coming here if latinos would work toward bring justice to their own countries maybe they wont have to runaway like rats. every latin country is a hellhole despite being blessed with abundant resources instead of fighting for whats rightfully thiers in their own country they runaway like cowards. also they bring racist attitudes from their countries like the many racial killings of african americans in los angeles refusal to speak english and lowering wages for americans while sending billions to latin america the white spaniards still control everything in latin america while the indians blacks and mestizos still live in poverty

  2. August 27, 2011 11:23 am

    you cannot expect to break our laws and then ask not to be punished society does not work this way you need to work to change the minds of the american people. what about the immigrants who paid thousands and waited in line and followed our laws and did it the right way obey the fucking law you morons stop breaking our laws or you will be punished. work to change your country instead of running away you cowards

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