Gov. Deval Patrick announced on Monday that Massachusetts will not participate in Secure Communities, the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration-enforcement fingerprint-sharing system. New York and Illinois both recently announced they will not participate in the program, either.
The New York Times reported Monday:
A Department of Homeland Security official said that the authorities would continue to expand the Secure Communities program, including in Massachusetts, because it was required by a federal law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that addresses the sharing of information between the F.B.I. and immigration authorities.
“We are not going to stop this program because of the governors,” said the official, who spoke anonymously in order to provide insight into a policy decision. “It is a program that is mandated by law that has the support of the administration and the Congress.”
Secure Communities is a fingerprint-sharing system that grants local law enforcement agencies access to FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records as part of the effort to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States. As of June 2010, all 67 Florida counties (.pdf) participate in Secure Communities.
The program was created to help identify, detain and deport immigrant criminals who pose a threat to the community. Detractors argue that the majority of people deported under Secure Communities are minor violators and non-criminals.
The Florida Independent reported in March that ICE data released through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that five Florida jurisdictions where Secure Communities is being implemented are among the top 20 jurisdictions with the highest numbers of deportations of non-criminals.
The data also show that under Secure Communities in Florida, from October 2008 through February 2011, more than 14,100 people were arrested or booked into ICE custody. Of that total, more than 4,600 were Level 1 or dangerous criminals, more than 1,800 were Level 2 detainees, almost 2,500 were Level 3 detainees and more than 5,100 were non-criminals.
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., recently called on the office of the Inspector General of Homeland Security to speed up a review of Secure Communities. 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.”