Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program, is once again at the center of a debate, this time about the possibility that local law enforcement should be able to opt out of the program. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies throughout Florida current;y participate in the program.
Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program, is once again at the center of a debate, this time about the possibility that local law enforcement should be able to opt-out of the program.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the program allows local law enforcement agencies to compare the fingerprints of every person arrested and booked with FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records. But critics of the program point to data from Immigration and Customs enforcement, which they say shows that Secure Communities leads to the detention and deportation of people who are not criminals.
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA alludes to that controversy in a letter to the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security calling for it to speed up a review of Secure Communities. The letter to Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards calls for the department to begin its investigation as soon as possible and not wait until the first quarter of 2012 as Edwards announced.
Lofgren adds she is pleased that the investigation will include, “an examination of the controversy regarding communities requirement to participate and the ability to opt-out of the program.” Lofgren’s letter to the DHS Office of the Inspector General attached two letters from Dan Cadman, a former Secure Communities contractor, which claim that confusion over opting out of Secure Communities has arisen because of the governments’ policy shifts and inconsistent public positions.
Cadman also rejects ICE Director John Morton’s claims that he was terminated because he was the author of several unacceptable e-mails related to the confusion of whether or not a local jurisdiction could opt out of Secure Communities.
In an April 28 letter, Lofgren expressed her concern because “Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel and contract staff may have made false and misleading statements to local governments, the public, and Members of Congress about the deployment of the Secure Communities program,” particularly about whether Secure Communities is a mandatory program that all state and local governments must be part of.
Earlier this month Illinois Governor Pat Quinn notified ICE that his state had decided to discontinue its participation in Secure Communities and all jurisdictions where the program had been activated were to be de-activated. California has advanced the TRUST Act, which would allow local jurisdictions to opt-out of Secure Communities and sets additional requirements for jurisdictions that do decide to participate.
In San Francisco, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, a vocal opponent of Secure Communities, recently testified in support of the TRUST Act, which would allow local governments to opt-out of the program. Hennessey tried to opt-out of the program last year but was informed by ICE that he could not.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies throughout Florida currently participate in the program.