The National Immigration Forum — a member of a task force created by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help improve its Secure Communities immigration enforcement program — is questioning ICE’s decision to terminate agreements to implement the program in an effort to prevent agencies from opting out of it altogether.
Secure Communities allows local law enforcement agencies to check the fingerprints of people they detain and match them up with federal immigration and criminal databases, with the stated goal of deporting criminals.
Some state and local governments have refused to participate in the program, or tried to back out of it.
The most recent letter from ICE director John Morton to state governors explains that “ICE has determined that [a Memoranda of Agreement] is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction. Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part.”
The National Immigration Forum says it is deeply disturbed by the announcement to terminate all Secure Communities agreements. An Immigration Forum release adds, “This unilateral decision contradicts the initially-stated intent to make this program optional for cities and states.”
The Immigration Forum also restated its concerns (.pdf) about Secure Communities:
- ICE should amend the rules so that states and localities, and not the federal government, decide if Secure Communities is appropriate for them.
- ICE must meaningfully address the erosion of public trust in law enforcement created by Secure Communities.
- Because Secure Communities lacks the internal safeguards to prevent profiling, ICE must address bias and discriminatory practices that are feeding people into the program.
Aldiatx.com, a Spanish-language news outlet, reports today that Lupe Valdez, sheriff of Dallas County and a member of the Secure Communities task force, held a hearing Tuesday night to listen to public comments on the program. According to the site, Valdez said her officers only arrest people who deserve to go to jail: ”If you are stopped for a traffic violation, we’ll only take you to jail if you have an arrest order. That only happens when you have many infractions.”
The federal Secure Communities program counts the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and all of Florida’s counties (.pdf) as participants.