Last week, an alliance of national immigration advocacy organizations filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), seeking to compel the release of documents concerning the agency’s Criminal Alien Program (CAP).
Seeking greater transparency, the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) brought the suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal agencies to produce responsive, non-exempt records upon request. For years, the public has been unable to scrutinize CAP because DHS has shrouded the program in secrecy.
CAP is the workhorse of the federal immigration enforcement system. Under CAP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are stationed in prisons and jails, visit other detention facilities, and initiate deportation proceedings against people convicted of criminal offenses. However, CAP also sweeps up individuals who have been arrested but never convicted of any crime.
And while DHS is still rolling out Secure Communities, CAP — a more far-reaching program — has been operational for years. Over the past five years alone, CAP has led to the arrest of more than a million people, and the program was implicated in approximately half of all removal proceedings in FY 2009.
“Although CAP supposedly targets the worst criminal offenders, the limited information we have shows that this is not always the case,” according to Melissa Crow, Director of AIC’s Legal Action Center. “Like Secure Communities, this insidious program seems to target individuals with little or no criminal history for deportation and to incentivize pretextual stops and racial profiling.”