More bad news for cities that want to opt out of Secure Communities: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chief John Morton confirmed to the Associated Press Friday that participation in the program, which shares fingerprints taken by police with federal immigration enforcement, is not voluntary.

Local governments in Arlington, Va., Santa Clara, Calif., San Francisco and Washington voted to remove their cities from the program. Although local communities have vowed to continue pushing for an opt-out option, confirmation that opting out is impossible has now come from the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and ICE.

Morton said ICE officials would still meet with local leaders to discuss Secure Communities, but they cannot remove themselves. This is a marked change from previous statements from the agency, which included instructions for opting out.

But since ICE actually receives fingerprints from the FBI — not directly from local authorities — the program will continue in states that have agreed to participate, Morton confirmed.

Critics argue that Secure Communities passes the costs of detaining illegal immigrants on to local communities, but Morton rejected this argument. “No one in the Department of Corrections, no one in Arlington County, no one in the other jurisdictions of Virginia is being asked to enforce federal immigration law,” he told the AP.

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