Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Proud to Live in the District

The D.C. Council took a momentous step on Tuesday to stand up for immigrants' rights.

Council member Phil Mendelson introduced a bill that would block Washington, D.C. from participating in the Secure Communities program. He was met with unanimous support from the rest of the D.C. Council.

Secure Communities is a local immigration enforcement program requires police officers to check the fingerprints of anyone they're booking into jail against a national database to confirm their legal status. Of course, this opens the way for racial profiling because Secure Communities checks people's status at the point of arrest, not the point of conviction. So, the program creates incentives for pretextual arrests (for minor violations like a broken tail light - the quintissential "driving while brown" violation).

As part of ICE's efforts to detain at least 400,000 people annually, the agency has been rolling out Secure Communities and plans to go nationwide in the next few years. The D.C. Council's move to block implementation in the District constitutes the first time that a city has stood up and refused to participate.

As Mendelson said, "The Metropolitan Police Department has its hands full dealing with violent crimes in the District, and the issue of immigration is not the MPD's responsibility."

Another first: The D.C. Council also announced its unanimous support for divesting from Arizona and banning city workers from traveling to the state on official business.

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