Court Orders Government to Produce Secure Communities Memo

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by immigration rights groups such as the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the federal government must turn over a memorandum related to the controversial Secure Communities program, a federal judge recently ruled.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin set a November 1 deadline for the federal government to release a document known as the “October 2 Memorandum,” which describes the rationale behind the government’s decision to make the Secure Communities program mandatory for all states.

Under Secure Communities, local law enforcement organizations share the fingerprints of all arrested individuals with federal immigration agencies, detaining arrestees who immigration authorities flag for further investigation or deportation. There was initial confusion as to whether the program was voluntary or required. On October 6, 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Secure Communities is mandatory – a policy based on reasoning laid out in the memo that will now be made public.

The government argued that the memo could be withheld based on attorney-client and deliberative process grounds.

Scheindlin ruled that because most the memo’s contents have already been divulged by government spokespeople who have sought to defend Secure Communities, attorney-client privilege is waived, The Associated Press reported. As for the deliberative process argument, the judge cited a Supreme Court ruling that once a policy is enacted, the need to protect the deliberative process leading to the decision to enact no longer exists.

A recent University of California-Berkeley study found that about 3,600 U.S. citizens have been unlawfully detained as a result of Secure Communities, which also appears to disproportionately target Latinos.

Despite the government’s decision to make Secure Communities mandatory, some communities have refused to cooperate with certain provisions. Chicago recently announced it will no longer hold prisoners on immigration detainers after they have completed their sentences or posted bail.