New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that “New York state will suspend participation in the federal Secure Communities Program,” currently used by Florida law enforcement in all 67 counties.

In his press release, Cuomo says that New York needs “to review the mounting evidence that the program is not meeting its stated goal and has serious consequences for witnesses, victims of crime and law enforcement.”

In a letter (pdf.) to the Department of Homeland Security, the Cuomo administration states:

The heart of the concern is that the program, conceived of as a method of targeting those who pose the greatest threat to our communities, in in fact having the opposite effect and compromising public safety by deterring witnesses to crime and other from working with law enforcement.

The letter also indicates that the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security  has announced that he will investigate whether the program is meeting its stated goals, whether it is being applied equitably and if prior representations about the Secure Communities’ purpose, intent and impact are accurate.

Secures Communities — according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE), the agency that oversees the program — “leverages an existing information sharing capability between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to quickly and accurately identify aliens who are arrested for a crime and booked into local law enforcement custody.”

Secure Communities uses a three-level system to determine the type of crime a detainee has committed. Level 1 refers to offenders convicted of aggravated felonies, Level 2 includes those convicted of felonies or three or more misdemeanors, and Level 3 indicates misdemeanor convictions. As of June 2010, all 67 Florida counties (pdf.) participate in Secure Communities.

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.

In the same period, out of more than 6,000 detainees who were removed from the U.S., at least 2,500 were non-criminal detainees — compared to 1,200 who were Level 1 or dangerous criminals. Non-criminal and Level 3 detainees made up about 60 percent of people removed.

In opting out of Secure Communities, New York joins Illinois, where Gov. Pat Quinn terminated that state’s Secure Communities agreement in early May.

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