Rep. Roybal-Allard on Secure Communities Program: Time for Transparency
Congresswoman calls for new inquiry following DHS Inspector General scandal
Today, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and DHS Inspector General (OIG) John Roth expressing her outrage that a March 2012 Office of Inspector General report on the flawed Secure Communities program was altered and its release delayed as a result of the then-Inspector General’s consultations with senior DHS officials.
Because the report’s release was delayed following these inappropriate conversations, Rep. Roybal-Allard and other members of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee were denied the opportunity to question former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton about the findings of the OIG study at the Subcommittee’s March 8, 2012 hearing on the ICE budget.
“The former Inspector General’s conduct is extremely troubling,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “Unfortunately, this incident fits a wider pattern – for too long, DHS has balked at taking the necessary steps to ensure full transparency of Secure Communities. It’s time for the DHS Inspector General to take a fresh look at this program, which continues to ensnare law-abiding people and undermine trust in law enforcement in minority communities.”
The full text of her letter is below:
May 6, 2014
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
The Department of Homeland Security
310 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20528-0150
Mr. John Roth
Office of Inspector General
The Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, DC 20528-0305
Dear Secretary Johnson and Inspector General Roth:
I write in response to one of the many troubling revelations of misconduct at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ investigation found that a review of the Secure Communities program was altered, and its release delayed, following consultations with senior DHS officials. These actions are entirely unacceptable, and reflect poorly not only on the former Acting Inspector General, Charles Edwards, but on the Department of Homeland Security as well. Unfortunately, this incident is consistent with the fact that DHS has too often failed to ensure appropriate transparency and accountability of the flawed Secure Communities program.
According to Senate investigators, language in a March 2012 OIG report on Secure Communities was modified “at the request of DHS officials before the final draft was formally sent to DHS for comment.” Following consultations between Edwards and then-DHS Acting Counsel John Sandweg, the release of the report – which was on Edwards’ desk on or about March 2 – was also reportedly delayed by several weeks, to March 27. As a result, I and other members of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee were denied the opportunity to question former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton about the findings of the OIG study at the Subcommittee’s March 8, 2012 hearing on the ICE budget.
The actions of the Inspector General and the Department directly impeded the Subcommittee in developing a fully-informed Homeland Security appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013. While the individuals responsible no longer hold leadership positions in the federal government, this incident reflects a pattern of failure by the department to ensure the Secure Communities program is transparent and accountable to Congress and the public. For example, until recently, the Department offered local law enforcement agencies ambiguous responses regarding whether it was mandatory to honor detainers issued under the program for suspected undocumented immigrants. DHS has also failed to produce a statistical analysis, originally promised in 2011, examining whether Secure Communities is linked to racial profiling.
I respectfully request that the OIG release the original, unaltered version of the March 2012 report that was allegedly changed following Edwards’ conversations with DHS officials. I also urge the OIG to thoroughly examine the extent to which the Secure Communities program may be improperly issuing detainers for non-criminals, persons with minor convictions, U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others who should not be enforcement priorities. Finally, I strongly encourage the Department to complete and make public the long-delayed statistical analysis of the program, including concrete measures to address jurisdictions that are statistical outliers.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.
Member of Congress