Washington - When 20-year-old Isaura Garcia called the 911 emergency hotline while being physically abused by her partner, she never imagined that her plea to U.S. legal authorities would lead to imprisonment and possible deportation.
Though Garcia's face was "black and blue" from repeated beatings by her boyfriend, the police – who insisted that she speak in English while explaining her plight – arrested her, held her in prison for over a week on a "felony domestic violence" charge, transferred her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), placed her in deportation proceedings, and finally released her on an electronic ankle bracelet.
Garcia's story is just one of thousands of similar tales whose inception can be traced to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operation known as Secure Communities (S-Comm), a programme that is now being challenged at the national level.
Kanya D'Almeida is the Asia-Pacific regional editor for IPS-Inter Press Service, and a freelance journalist currently based at the United Nations. She has reported from Mexico, Sri Lanka and the United States. She splits her time between her native Sri Lanka and New York City.