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 the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, and a freelance journalist currently based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She has covered human rights issues in Mexico, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Her work has appeared on Al Jazeera, The Margins, and Alternet, among others. She splits her time between her native Sri Lanka and New York City.