A protester objects to Secure Communities in Boston last September. (Charles Krupa/AP)On Tuesday, a federal deportation program that scours local jails for illegal immigrants will expand into New York and Massachusetts, despite objections from the Democratic governors of those states.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said they opposed the Secure Communities fingerprint sharing program because it interferes with local policing priorities. Under the program, the fingerprints from local jails are matched against a federal immigration database. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) then asks local jails to detain people they think may be in the country without authorization, while it decides whether to try to deport them. Immigrants rights advocates say the program expels thousands of people who have no criminal records and makes witnesses to crimes afraid to come forward because they mistakenly believe they will be fingerprinted and deported.
The federal government at first gave the impression that states and counties could opt out of Secure Communities, before reversing course and saying it would be up and running in every county by 2013, with or without local officials' consent. ICE officials say Secure Communities allows them to focus on deporting criminals, the agency's top priority. ICE recently changed one aspect of the program so that fewer illegal immigrants without criminal records who are fingerprinted after minor traffic violations—such as driving without a license—are detained.
But some counties, such as Santa Clara County in California and Cook County in Illinois, refuse to place detainers on people at ICE's request. After Secure Communities was implemented in Washington state in April despite Gov. Chris Gregoire's objections, immigrant rights groups urged King County officials to join those counties in refusing to cooperate with ICE, according to the AP. It's unclear if the federal government will take action against counties that ignore ICE's detainers.
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