Posts Tagged ‘Secure Communities’

BORDC welcomes Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 10:01 am by

After a four year absence, a board charged with ensuring government respect for privacy and civil liberties was recently reconvened and received recommendations from civil liberties groups.  How it approaches its work will carry serious implications for civil liberties going forward.

In 2004, the September 11th Commission’s recommendations to Congress included the creation of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to ensure the protection of civil liberties.  Noting that “if our liberties are curtailed, we lose the values that we are struggling to defend,” the commission called for a board to oversee the government’s adherence to defending civil liberties.  The PCLOB was constituted in 2006, but after operating for less than a year, it was reorganized by Congress, curtailing the tenure of its original members and then allowing to lapse after 2008.

After years of inactivity, the Senate finally confirmed new members of the Board, and it convened for a public hearing on October 31.  A bevy of civil liberties groups submitted statements to the Board, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), as well as the ACLU, the Defending Dissent Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the DC-based Center for National Security Studies (CNSS), and the Constitution Project.

Both BORDC and CNSS  recommended approaches to the PCLOB’s work going forward, rather than discrete issues.  BORDC’s statement included three major recommendations to guide the work of the board:

  • [Undertake] a concerted effort to recruit and engage pro bono counsel to extent the PCLOB’s investigative capacity.
  • Beyond examining any discrete set of policies…acquaint policymakers, the press, and its observers within the executive branch with context about the landscape connecting these various long overlooked civil liberties issues.
  • Because the PCLOB has convened only in passing over the decade since its creation was first recommended by the 9/11 commission, it should evaluate contemporary policies not in the context of the most recent incremental changes, but rather against the baseline pre-dating the 9/11 commission.

Similarly, CNSS provided input on the Board’s role, objectives, operations and its place vis-a vis the public and Congress. Notably, CNSS urged the Board to take a broad view of what constitutes privacy, inviting it to:

consider those ways in which government access to personal information, even when that information may be somehow available on the internet, impacts those constitutional values of liberty, due process and individual autonomy that privacy is supposed to protect.

A number of allied organizations presented suggestions about particular issues screaming out for scrutiny and oversight by the PCLOB.


BORDC in the news: October 28 – November 4, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm by

Given the election is just only a day away, it should come as no surprise that this past week gave rise to a ton of political discourse. Sadly for the American people, issues of civil liberties continue to evade the lips of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates by and large. This week, BORDC was featured by many news outlets as work with local coalitions moved forward-including those in Berkeley, California.

On Wednesday, BORDC legal fellow Nadia Kayyali appeared in several local and regional newspapers/online-editions after the Berkeley city council unanimously voted to revoke a policy requiring Berkeley Police Department to hold undocumented immigrants in the local jail by request of the federal government. The vote, which came as surprise to many including some advocates, is one of the most progressive maneuvers pushing back against the ICE’s Secure Communities initiative to have been undertaken in the country to date. Both the Daily Californian and the Mercury News quoted Kayyali’s address to the city council about Berkeley Police turning over suspected immigration violators to federal authorities. In the Daily Californian, Kayyali was quoted:

“We are basically throwing out the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty. We are holding them on their immigration status.”

The Mercury News quoted Kayyali as saying that turning over suspects to ICE…

“throws out the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty.”

Speaking on the ramifications of the vote on county and state advocacy, Kayyali was quoted by the independent newspaper Berkeleyside:

“This is probably the best policy in the country,” she said. “It really sends a message about S-Comm, and makes council’s statements in the past, about not supporting the program, a reality.”

Berkely S-Comm Protests

For a comprehensive view of BORDC’s latest news coverage, and to find out how to reach staff for comment, and more, view our online press resources.


The 2012 presidential candidates’ perspectives on civil liberties

Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 10:29 am by

Note: The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and does not endorse particular candidates for public office. Nothing in what follows should be construed as an official endorsement for any candidate, but we do hope that you’ll find it both informative and provocative.

With only a few days remaining until the 2012 presidential election, the candidates are sprinting around the country to secure support from voters. Behind the distractions of their legitimate policy differences, however, lie quietly critical issues that truly test their dedication to upholding the laws of the land and preserving the protections of We the People. While the national economy dominated discussion during the 2012 presidential debates, this year’s election also affords an opportunity to scrutinize the candidates’ perspectives on civil liberties.

Obama vs. Romney

On many civil liberties issues, neither Obama nor Romney have taken positions consistent with American values, choosing instead to support authoritarian measures adopted in the name of security. According to BORDC’s Shahid Buttar:

While the 2012 presidential debate has involved many issues of legitimate national concern, those with the most enduring legacy have been excluded entirely from the debate — and with good reason: There is no meaningful daylight between the candidates. Despite an increasingly vicious electoral contest between the presidential campaigns, and wide-ranging conflict between the two major political parties in Congress and the state legislatures, with respect to national security and human rights (and to be fair, a range of other equally ignored issues), America is a one party state.

On the one hand, Romney may bring back into the White House the discredited coterie of advisers that dragged our country into a constitutional abyss under the Bush administration. On the other hand, President Obama has made policy choices in counterterrorism, immigration enforcement, surveillance, and police accountability that outflank the Bush-Cheney administration’s worst abuses.

Noting the Obama administration’s support for domestic surveillance, government secrecy, a national biometric ID scheme, prosecuting whistleblowers, and executive accountability for torture, Buttar notes that:

Despite campaigning to restore liberty in the face of Bush & Cheney’s blind pursuit of a brutish (and ultimately foolish) vision of security, President Obama has not only continued their constitutional abuses but even pioneered new ones. Two looming, especially large, ones are the powers to militarily detain — or even kill — anyone (even American citizens, and their children) with neither evidence nor any judicial review.

The 2012 presidential debates also gave rise to a discussion on the candidates’ immigration policies.  President Obama and Governor Romney both consider America a “nation of immigrants”, and both advocate a “streamline” approach to acquiring citizenship.  The candidates also share ambitions to remove non-resident criminals and encourage an influx of educated immigrants .  Although the President and former Governor both support reforming the ‘legal’ immigration system, their respective programs differ significantly.

One aspect of President Obama’s immigration agenda entails some constuctive reforms.  The President has promised that his administration will “go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families.”

Though President Obama’s rhetoric is laudable, its execution seems at odds with his words.  Enforcement protocols such as Secure Communities, which purports to identify and eject immigrants who commit serious crimes, tend to victimize immigrant communities and essentially turn local police stations into extensions of federal immigration agencies.  In the name of immigration reform, the administration has essentially terrorized productive members of American communities.

Considering immigration from the perspective of economic reconstruction, Governor Romney’s agenda entails identifying ‘illegal’ hires and imposing penalties on employers who knowingly hire ‘illegal’ workers.  Romney also suggested that even if the breadwinners of a family face deportation, their children may enlist for military service as a pathway to citizenship.  But a state that accepts immigrants into its armed forces while rejecting them from its workforce defies the ideals of justice and equality that America once signified.

Romney’s vision for the future of immigration policy also contemplates a self-deportation system.  He explains:

[W]e’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they — if they find that — that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t — and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go a place where — where they have better opportunities.

While seemingly humane, this soft description of self-deportation policies conflicts with Romney’s own stated immigration objectives.  Though he determines to penalize employers who hire ‘illegal’ workers, he neglects to reveal possible repercussions for individuals found ineligible to work.

Without a clear path to citizenship or opportunity to work, Romney will not have to “round up [and remove]12 million…undocumented illegals,” because a lack of livelihood will force them to leave.  Ultimately, Romney’s immigrant agenda represents a selective exclusion process with the potential to deport the very individuals it ought to protect; people  who simply want to work hard to provide for their families.  He proposes a return to policies of exclusion that unfortunately taint our nation’s history.

Though President Obama’s immigration agenda seems more benevolent than Governor Romney’s, both major party candidates support potentially prejudicial policies and further fortifying the border industrial complex.  True immigration reform cannot exist with vulnerable communities under state surveillance and families facing separation because of an inefficient system.

Third Party Candidates on Civil Liberties

While neither Obama nor Romney can plausibly claim to defend the Constitution, many third-party presidential candidates have expressed profound opposition to national security policies that abuse civil rights and civil liberties. On October 23, four candidates on the ballot in enough states to win the presidency (Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Libertarian Party candidate Gov. Gary Johnson, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson) gathered at the Chicago Hilton to debate each other, drawing attention to many policies on which neither Romney nor Obama have promised real leadership.


Berkeley, CA enacts historic policing policies

Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:32 am by

Last night, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a historic measure ending Berkeley’s cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, mere weeks after enacting groundbreaking reforms protecting privacy and dissent in the face of federally-coordinated domestic surveillance and intelligence collection efforts.

Responding to sustained pressure from the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, the City Council declared last night that:

“The Berkeley Police Department will follow its normal rules and procedures irrespective of the immigration status with whom it comes into contact. The Berkeley Police Department will not honor requests by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, to detain a Berkeley jail inmate for suspected violations of the federal civil immigration law.”

The decision resulted from sustained controversy in Berkeley, and across the nation, over federal policy initiatives that co-opt local police and distract them from their core public safety mission, such as the Secure Communities Initiative (S-Comm).

Almost exactly one year ago, Santa Clara County rejected S-comm, implementing a policy that severely restricted the Santa Clara Sheriff’s compliance with detainer requests. After mobilizing for the past two years to champion broad law enforcement reforms to protect civil rights undermined by federal programs, the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (covered by Bay Area media sources including the SF Bay Guardian, Berkeley Daily Planet, ABC News, and CBS News) has secured the support of its City Council on a series of important policy reforms.

The City Council enacted many of the Coalition’s proposed reforms, on September 18, particularly relating to intelligence collection by the Berkeley Police Department. Those reforms also addressed: (1) dissemination of intelligence information to the Northern California regional fusion center (mere weeks before the US Senate released a report sharply critical of fusion centers for wasteful spending and abuses of constitutional rights), (2) responses to mutual aid requests from nearby police agencies when suppressing  First Amendment activity (such as the crackdown on Occupy Oakland nearly exactly a year ago), and (3) transparency into proposed purchases of military equipment (like an armored personnel carrier whose attempted purchase by the police department the Coalition eventually blocked).

While the Council supported many of the Coalition’s reform proposals in September, it continued the vote on the Coalition’s proposed civil detainer policy (responding to S-Comm) until this week’s Council meeting. In the wake of the Coalition’s further victory last night,  Manuel De Paz from East Bay Sanctuary Covenant said:

“This…policy…protects the rights of immigrants and follows the Constitution….[it] gives faith and hope nationwide to those who struggle day by day for social justice. When a coalition like the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley finds common ground, values, and puts aside the differences and personal interests, and persists, everything can be achieved and there’s no battle that can’t be won.”


News Digest 10/3/2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 9/4/2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm by

News Digest 7/23/12

Monday, July 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC’s June 2012 Newsletter

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

June 2012, Vol. 11, No. 6

In this issue:

2013 NDAA could make indefinite detention provisions even worse


Grassroots News

Law and Policy

New Resources and Opportunities

Thomas Nephew: “seeing civil liberties as a way of recalling people’s sense of what our country ought to be”

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm by

Thomas Nephew, member of the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition and January 2011′s Patriot Award Honoree, shares his views on the importance of protecting civil rights and how you can get started in your own community at the BORDC’s convening last month in Chicago.

Thomas shares his own motivations for standing up for civil rights reflecting on the recent success in Tacoma Park, Maryland, saying, “I see civil liberties as a way of recalling people’s sense of what our country ought to be. And so, I want to recapture that and help people recapture that for themselves.”  On May 21 the Takoma Park City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of a resolution that condemns the controversial “indefinite detention” provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

BORDC  thanks Thomas for his work, and shares the belief that “the country can be better than it is.”



DC council passes Immigration Detainer Compliance Emergency Amendment Act

Monday, June 11, 2012 at 9:55 am by

In 2009, Jai Shankar, an immigrant living in Washington, DC, was arrested, detained for five months, and forced to wear a tracker ankle bracelet for two years. Not for committing a crime, but for reporting one. Such counterintuitive, counterproductive measures have been common under the federal Secure Communities program (S-Comm). Under S-Comm, immigrants like Jai, “who have committed no crime or have committed a minor offense can be held for ICE, without ever having been convicted of anything.” This is an obvious infraction of our constitutional freedoms.


Thankfully, communities and cities across the US have been speaking out against such atrocities. On June 5, Washington, DC,  achieved a major victory by passing the Immigration Detainer Compliance Emergency Amendment Act, which limits ICE’s use of District facilities and equipment and also narrows S-Comm’s deportation dragnet by only responding to immigration detention requests for individuals who are over 18 and have been convicted of a dangerous crime. This is a huge step in the right direction.

However, individuals and organizations need to continue to speak out. In order to prevent the negative consequences associated with S-Comm from permanently damaging our nation, it is important to show the government that people are opposed to S-Comm and the unconstitutional measures it produces. Only in that way will we be able to ensure our privacy, protect our communities, and prevent the unjust persecution of the innocent.