About 40 people rallied in Hempstead yesterday against the Secure Communities program that enables police departments to check fingerprinting and personal data of those in their custody against federal databases of immigrants flagged for deportation.
The national program — which according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prioritizes the removal of criminal illegal immigrants, those who pose a threat to public safety and repeat immigration violators — has been widely criticized because it also nabs immigrants without criminal histories.
Luis Valenzuela, of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, said the database checks target more than dangerous criminals and have a chilling effect.
“What the program has done is terrorize our communities,” Valenzuela said. “Families are being torn apart. People are suffering.”
However, ICE spokesman Lou Martinez countered in a statement that Secure Communities, in place on Long Island since February 2011, “has been the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to .?.?. focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators” and that about 95 percent of the 179,000 immigrants removed through the program last year fit the agency’s “enforcement priorities.”
Sister Rosalie Carven, a Catholic nun at Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, held a sign that read, “Without welcoming communities there are no Secure Communities.”
“If we are going to be the country we ought to be,” Carven explained, “we are going to be welcoming those who need to come here and work and whom we need to sustain the life of our country.”