MEDIA RELEASE: Justice Center Joins Hundreds of Groups Condemning Merger of Criminal Justice and Immigration Systems

September 29, 2010

Justice Center Joins Hundreds of Groups Condemning Merger of Criminal Justice and Immigration Systems
578 National and Local Organizations Sign Letter to the President Demanding an End to Practices that Harm their Communities
WASHINGTON (Sep. 29, 2010) – Citing systemic problems within both the immigration and criminal justice systems, nearly 600 groups from across the country, including the NC Justice Center, today delivered a letter to President Obama demanding that he end the merger of immigration enforcement with criminal justice.
The three page letter expressed concerns and presented proof that the Obama administration’s increased reliance on local law enforcement to arrest, detain, and deport immigrants has exacerbated existing problems in the criminal justice system.
“Forcing local law enforcement to take on immigration enforcement is not only dangerous to our rights, it undermines the safety of our communities,” said Dani Martinez-Moore, coordinator of the NC Justice Center's Network of Immigrant Advocates. “It discourages people from turning to the police when they need to, even to report crimes, and diverts scarce resources into federal programs that are controversial and divisive.”
Programs known as “Secure Communities,” 287(g), and the Criminal Alien Program – the Obama administration’s signature immigration enforcement programs – all rely on heavy involvement from and cooperation with local law enforcement to pull immigrants into the immigration enforcement and detention system and, ultimately, into removal proceedings. Here in the South, as law enforcement agencies are dealing with a legacy of racial discrimination, controversial programs that create incentives for police to unfairly target those who look or sound foreign further erode community trust in law enforcement.
In North Carolina and nationwide, these programs have generated widespread accusations of racial profiling. As the letter to Obama points out, abuses within the criminal justice system have been well documented, and racial profiling continues to plague even traditionally immigrant-rich cities. In New York City, for example, more than 81 percent of those stopped by police are Black or Latino.
At 9 a.m. today, the coalition delivered the letter to President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security's Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and members of Congress calling for an end to the dangerous merger of the federal immigration system with state criminal justice system.
As of this writing, 578 civil rights, labor, criminal justice, immigration, and faith organizations from around the country signed on to demand that the Obama administration stop the devolution of federal immigration responsibilities to state and local law enforcement. More groups continue to sign on.
 FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Dani Martinez-Moore, dani@ncjustice.org, 919-856-2178 office, 919-533-9203 cell; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615.