Religious Leaders Hold Vigil to Ask for an End to NY’s “Secure Communities” Program
Clergy and Advocates Urge Gov. Cuomo to Follow Illinois’ Lead
New York, NY (May 11, 2011) – Diverse faith community leaders, joined by advocates and community members, held a vigil in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office to urge the Governor to end New York State’s involvement in “Secure Communities.” Speakers applauded Illinois for withdrawing from S-Comm and urged Cuomo to do the same in order to protect New York immigrants.
The vigil followed a letter sent to Governor Cuomo by the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform and signed by more than 100 diverse faith community leaders across New York, urging him to terminate New York’s S-Comm agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“So far, Governor Cuomo has not acted,” Network Co-chair Diane Steinman said. “So today we say to our Governor: Follow the example set by the State of Illinois and pull New York out of this program that is shattering the lives of immigrants while making New Yorkers less safe and secure.”
“We believe our Governor is a moral man. We believe he has a conscience,” said Network Co-chair Lisa Sharon Harper. “Yet every day, S-Comm betrays the conscience of New Yorkers by violating New York’s moral commitment to promote the public welfare, by making some New Yorkers the target of brutal intolerance, and by turning a blind eye to racial and ethnic profiling. So our diverse community of faith leaders calls on Governor Cuomo to rekindle the flame New York’s conscience. Join with Illinois Governor Quinn! Opt-out of S-Comm!”
Under S-Comm, local police are required to send fingerprints upon booking to immigration databases to identify people for deportation. Faith community leaders, brought together by the Interfaith Network and the New Sanctuary Movement, decried the program for unjustly deporting immigrants. They further pointed out that there is no time to lose, as more than one-third of New York’s counties have already activated S- Comm. In January and February alone, the program identified nearly 3,500 people for potential deportation. Many of those identified through S-Comm end up in detention centers located in remote locations, where they have severely limited access to lawyers, medical care, family, and evidence to defend against deportation.
This event is part of a growing call to end the controversial S-Comm program in New York and nationwide. In the past two weeks, Congress Member Zoe Lofgren, joined by Senator Robert Menendez, called for an investigation of S-Comm, and Illinois Govenor Pat Quinn terminated the state’s S-Comm agreement due to unfixable problems with the program. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued a call to President Barack Obama for an immediate freeze on the program, expressing concerns for public safety. And 38 New York state legislators sent a letter to Governor Cuomo this Monday calling for a termination of S-Comm in New York.