WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Interest groups and community members gathered Tuesday on the steps of District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray's office in Washington to speak out against deportation laws.
About 50 demonstrators assembled at the Wilson Building in Washington to push the City Council to follow the example of Chicago and New York by blocking the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program called Secure Communities.
The purpose of the program is to "identify and remove aliens that pose a threat to public safety" by cross-referencing local fingerprinting with immigration databases.
But opponents claim the immigration program unfairly punishes petty crimes and discourages members of the undocumented community to come forward about crime.
"We can be married and live in the same house and not have a relationship," said Ronald Hampton, a retired District of Columbia police officer and president of Black Law Enforcement of America.
"I was 24 years on the force in Adams Morgan (a D.C. neighborhood) and I walked the beat by foot for four years organizing the community, talking to residents and building relationships," Hampton said.
Secure Communities hinders police officers from preventing crime, he said, adding that it damages community trust.
"When families are fearful of police, it increases the severity of domestic violence," said Amy Loudermilk from the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
"Laborers are getting robbed," said Arturo Griffith, a spokesman for the Washington Metro AFL-CIO. Men stand on the street corner in Northeast Washington looking for subcontracting work, he said, and there is no one to turn to if they are denied their pay when the job is done.