H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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The So Called “Secure Communities” Program Has Unintended Consequences for the Victims of Illegal Domestic Violence Arrests

A relatively new Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Program called “Secure Communities” is having an unintended impact and should be stopped.

Several states have sought to withdraw from the program because the program “traps” unintended victims of false domestic violence arrests in its grasp.

The Program compels the recording of the fingerprints of everyone booked into local police custody — even if they have been the subject of illegal or wrongful arrests such is often the case in Colorado for misdemeanor domestic violence charges.

In many of these cases the police are compelled to dismiss the charges – however the fingerprints are still forwarded to DHS to check the falsely arrested person’s immigration status.

Many times the VICTIMS of domestic violence are wrongfully arrested by the police – who cannot decide whom to charge. Often the wrong person is arrested leaving it up to the DA to decide what to do with the case.

“One such person was Isaura Garcia is a 20-year-old mother living in Los Angeles who endured three years of domestic violence before calling 911, seeking protection from her abusive boyfriend. After the police arrived, they questioned her about her immigration status, then arrested her and sent her fingerprints to federal immigration authorities. Stunned, Isaura fainted. At the hospital, a doctor found bruises on her body and identified her as a victim of domestic violence, and no charges were filed against her.”

Simply because she had been arrested, Isaura’s fingerprints were submitted to immigration officials and she was placed into deportation proceedings. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only terminated her proceedings after the ACLU of Southern California drew public attention to her case.

The program had fundamentally good goals when it was started in 2008, Secure Communities was billed as program aimed at deporting “serious criminal offenders.”

Now, four years in, ICE’s own statistics show this is far from the truth. The majority of people deported under the program since its inception — 60 percent — have had only misdemeanor convictions (such as traffic violations or municipal code violations), or have done nothing wrong at all.

There has been widespread opposition to the program from across the political spectrum.

The result has been a built in disincentive to contact the police by a population that needs to build more trust with law enforcement. The program – as one blogger put it “undermines public safety by deterring immigrants from contacting local police when they are victims or witnesses of crime.

In short – this program – like many other Governmental programs meant well – and has – as the most recent television program puts – “Broke Bad.”