A lawsuit filed by James Makowski on Tuesday claims he was wrongly imprisoned for two months as a result of the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program. The Plaintiff, a U.S. citizen, argues the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated his rights under the Privacy Act.
Insiders say the lawsuit fundamentally messes with the fed’s assertion that Secure Communities is a controlled, systematized program that DHS operates with proper discretion.
“ICE claims that S-COMM avoids racial profiling or other rights abuses—ie. the unlawful detention of US-citizens—because it does not function out on the streets, but rather through mechanized and equal opportunity immigration checks processed through a computer. In fact, as we’ve often reported and as this case demonstrates, Secure Communities is a reckless system that feeds off the (in)discretion of local street cops,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.
“The Privacy Act forbids the government from sharing data regarding U.S. citizens, unless it has some indication that a law is being violated. Since the launch of Secure Communities in 2008, the FBI has indiscriminately distributed the fingerprints of millions of U.S. citizens to DHS, which also stores the fingerprints in its database,” said Mark Fleming, a litigation coordinator at the National Immigrant Justice Center and co-counsel in the case. “Worse, as DHS has aggressively deployed Secure Communities, it has taken woefully inadequate steps to ensure the accuracy of its records or to implement simple measures to prevent U.S. citizens from being caught up in the net of immigration enforcement.”
According to a press release sent by the National Immigrant Justice Center, Makowski became a U.S. citizen at the age of one and has been in possession of a U.S. passport since. He was also accepted into the U.S. Marines in 2004 and underwent an FBI check as part of that process but the DHS never updated its records to reflect Makowski’s citizenship.
As a result of the discrepancy with Makowski’s records when he was detained and fingerprinted an automatic immigration detainer was issued without ever interviewing him or providing him the opportunity to produce his U.S. passport, social security card, or driver’s license. Lawyers say the Makowski was wrongfully imprisoned for two months until he was able to hire an attorney to convince DHS to rescind its detainer.
The lawsuit is the first litigation challenging Secure Communities.