This letter was hand-delivered to the San Francisco Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office on Friday, August 12, 2011.
Timothy Aiken, Director
Region 9 Field Office
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Enforcement and Removal Operations
San Francisco Field Office
630 Sansome St., #590
San Francisco, CA 94111
Dear Mr. Aiken,
We are clergy and lay leaders across the Bay Area writing to decry the unilateral announcement by ICE last Friday that says implementation of the “Secure Communities” program is mandatory. This is in the face of mounting criticism from communities around the country on the basis of ethical, humanitarian, safety and due-process concerns. Based on our own deeply held beliefs as members of faith communities, we protest this program as unjustified, undemocratic, and immoral. We also condemn the misleading and deceptive way that ICE has executed this program. Thus, we call on ICE to suspend the operation of this program until a thorough, credible independent investigation of this program can be completed.
The core values of our various religious teachings affirm the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. They honor and promote the sanctity of the family. They instruct us to care for and protect the most vulnerable in our society and to seek the flourishing of all. For we share the belief that we are all a part of a single human community, a part of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “a network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
The Secure Communities program violates these cherished values on so many levels. It denies the dignity and inherent worth thousands of upon thousands of people by denying them due process. Men, women, and minors are swept up in ICE’s dragnet operation and detained and deported for minor and indiscriminant reasons, like being pulled over by police for a cracked windshield, or for calling the police for help in the situation of domestic violence. Although, ICE justifies and promotes S-Comm as way of targeting violent or “high threat” criminals, this belies the truth. Fully 79% of those caught up in this program are either non-criminals or those picked up for minor offenses like traffic violations
S-Comm disrupts and devastates families, leaving mothers, fathers, and children separated and even traumatized. This program has become a pipeline to detention, a terrifying process in which families are given little information about the whereabouts of loved ones. Ultimately, parents and loved ones are separated from children, swept away and “disappeared”, deported to countries that many have never known.
Not only are families torn asunder, but S-Comm undermines the health and safety of our communities. It spreads fear and distrust as it effectively renders local police as immigration agents. As a result, witnesses to crimes are less likely to report incidents and women suffering from domestic violence are less likely to report and seek aid. In addition, S-Comm encourages and facilitates racial profiling, further eroding our civil rights and protections.
Yet, it is not only the content of this program that provokes our profound moral opposition. It is also the misleading and undemocratic authoritarian conduct of ICE that deeply disturbs us. There has been so much dissatisfaction with the program that three governors announced they were pulling out of it. Until the announcement on Friday, everyone thought they had a choice. For over two years, that is how ICE has represented the program. Now this agency roundly contradicts its own repeated representations. It seems that ICE has engaged in purposeful deception in order to implement a program that is clearly problematic and controversial, one that pursues the oppression of the most vulnerable people in our society.
The blind injustice of this policy is an affront to religious conscience and rational governance. It saddens us that ICE persists in this inhumane policy which is so contrary to our religious and American values of family and community. S-Comm needs to be suspended immediately and thoroughly investigated. Urged by our faith and by our love for our country we will continue to challenge and resist it.
Bishop Otis E. Charles, Retired Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Utah
Rev. Deborah Lee, Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights / CLUE CA, Northern California
Robert Lane, Member, Immigration Task Force of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, Walnut Creek
Kristi Laughlin, Director, East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
The Rev. Dr. Richard Smith, St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco
Rev. Kurt Kuhwald, Faculty, Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley
Pastor Brian K. Woodson, Bay Area Christian Connection, Oakland
c.c. Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security