New study shows deportations don’t reduce crime

In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced “Secure Communities,” which for the first time allowed DHS to check the fingerprints of any individual arrested by a local jurisdiction. Secure Communities piggybacked on prior DHS initiatives to use local police as “force multipliers” including the Criminal Alien Program, which establishes voluntary screening partnerships with local jails, which deputizes local law enforcement as immigration enforcement agents. In all, DHS’ underlying rationale has been that deporting immigrant offenders would keep communities “secure” by prioritizing deportation of “criminal aliens,” “those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.”

A new study flatly contradicts DHS’ rationale. The study, by law professors Adam Cox and Thomas J. Miles, states outright that Secure Communities “has not served its central objective of making communities safer.” Crime rates were “in essence unchanged” once jurisdictions adopted Secure Communities, nor did Secure Communities reduce rates of violent crime homicide, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. More broadly, the study “calls into question the longstanding assumption that deporting noncitizens who commit crimes is an effective crime-control strategy.”

This finding is remarkable. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, through Secure Communities, has detained over a quarter of a million immigrants and deported over 200,000. Although this study did not break out deportations of families through Secure Communities, ICE reported that it deported over 72,000 parents of U.S. citizen children in FY 2013 alone. Yet ICE’s efforts have resulted in no observable effect on U.S. crime rates, communities are no more “secure.” Indeed, ICE’s efforts could have had the opposite impact, by hindering crime reporting in communities where immigrants are afraid to report crimes to local police. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson recently suggested that Secure Communities needs a “fresh start.”

While Cox and Miles noted that Secure Communities resulted in the deportation of immigrants convicted of serious crimes, a majority of those deported through the program were guilty of misdemeanors or victimless immigration offenses, or no crime at all. Only 29 percent of those deported fell into DHS’ most serious category of criminal convictions.

Moreover, the spreading local opposition to ICE detainers only underscores that local residents increasingly feel ICE arrests through Secure Communities have done more harm than good.

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