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D.C. Council takes a stand against S-Comm

July 11, 2012

Sarahi Uribe speaking at the D.C. Press Conference.  Photo by Natalie Patrick-Knox

Yesterday, immigrant rights activists gathered on the steps of the Wilson Building to applaud the city council’s passage of a bill aimed to limit collaboration between local police and federal immigration enforcement.  During the press conference, chants of “¡Sí, se puede!  ¡Sí, se puede!” followed as advocates discussed the importance of this bill for the broader immigrant community.  The legislation was hailed as a huge victory for immigrant rights groups including women of domestic abuse and labor unions.

The bill was enacted in response to the controversial deportation program, Secure Communities (S-Comm).  Set to be implemented nationwide in 2013, Secure Communities has been criticized for making local police act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.  As a result, immigrant communities have been isolated due to a decrease in crime reporting and an increase in racial profiling by the police.  According to the Washington Post, local D.C. police will now “detain only those who have been previously convicted of a ‘dangerous’ crime and only for an additional 24 hours beyond the time they would otherwise be held.”  The city will also charge the federal government for any additional day of incarceration.

When the bill was introduced last November, the chief sponsor of the bill Phil Mendelson (D) stated that “we want local police dedicated to crime solving in the District of Columbia and we don’t want to create mistrust with our immigrant populations.”  Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) echoed the support last year through an executive order that prohibited local police officials from contacting ICE agencies about a detainee’s immigration status.

Mendelson modeled the bill after proposals from Chicago and New York City.  Cook County in Illinois and Santa Clara County in California have already enacted similar legislation to ignore ICE detainers. Last week, California’s Senate passed the TRUST Act — Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools — in order to prevent the detention of undocumented immigrants with low level offenses.

Today’s D.C. press conference is part of a week-long national event organized by The Restoring Trust Campaign.  For more information and resources from the campaign, visit

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