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Immigration Policy: Secure Communities Panel

November 4, 2011

Immigration Panel
Immigration Panel
Immigration Panel

By Kevin Laroza, 3L

“There were aspects that we really messed up on.”
                                               – Acting Director of Secure Communities Jon Gurule

This theme set the tone for the Illegal Immigration and Secure Communities panel which was sponsored by the Criminal Law Society, the Immigration Law Society, the Jefferson Law Republicans, and the Public Interest Law Foundation.  To introduce the topic, Professor Ilene Durst addressed the background and timeline of the Secure Communities program.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) promulgated the Secure Communities program to allow inter-agency sharing of fingerprints from their databases.  This optional exchange of information was intended to aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain and remove those undocumented residents who have committed the worst of the worst crimes. However, the program has been mandatory nationwide since August 15, 2011, and was expanded to target any person who is suspected of being in the country illegally.

Moderated by Professor Anders Kaye, the panel included Acting Deputy Director from the San Diego ICE field office Robert Culley, the Acting Director of Secure Communities Jon Gurule, representative from the ACLU Sean Riordan, Director of the US/Mexico Border program Pedro Rios, and independent immigration attorney Katie Spero, TJSL ’08.
Panelists spoke on the many issues surrounding the program, such as its effectiveness, whether the program is discriminatory, and the discretion associated with detention.  And while the panelists represented the interests of both sides of the argument, the general consensus was that the Secure Communities program is a flawed system.  However, the panel diverged in the effectiveness of the program and the proper use of available resources.

Deputy Director Robert Culley said that resources are limited and the best use of the resources available was through the Secure Communities program, “The [Secure Communities] program was created to allow us to use our resources smarter,” said Culley.  “There are places where we choose to put our resources and there are places where we don’t.”

Immigration attorney Katie Spero did not agree that Secure Communities was the best use of available resources.  “What we’ve done [for legal immigration last year] is updated some forms and created an online tracking website.  With all due respect, that is what Domino’s (pizza) did this year as well,” said Spero, “Secure Communities focuses solely on removal and getting people out.  We need to show as much dedication to providing solutions to people who are already in and want to come [into the country].”

Overall, the panel was largely successful due to the excellent introduction by Professor Durst, the discussion and answers provided by the panelists, and the direction and moderation by Professor Kaye.  Although not all questions were answered due to time constraints, the panel provided insight into key areas of the Secure Communities program.  Due to its controversial and mandatory nature, Secure Communities will continue to be a hotly debated topic in the area of immigration, civil rights, and criminal law.

For more information about Secure Communities and to view the video and pictures of the panel, please visit the Immigration Law Society’s website at