Already in more than 650 jurisdictions and in 32 states, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to expand the two-year Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program called “Secure Communities” to every state by 2011.
Unlike other local/ICE partnerships, there is no need for Memoranda of Agreement between local law enforcement agencies, or the need for local law agents to be deputized in order to enforce immigration laws. ICE also plans to extend its reach to 3,100 state and local jails nationally by 2013.
Secure Communities allows ICE to have access to fingerprints sent to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies. This addition has been incorporated into the normal criminal booking process where every arrested person’s fingerprints are checked against DHS’s biometric database. If there is a match, or a “hit”, where the arrested person is matched with possible immigration violation, ICE and local law enforcement are alerted. The arrested person’s immigration status is thus determined, as well as whether the individual is deportable.
Secure Communities might even promote the ability for racial profiling by allowing local police to make arrests based on race and ethnicity, or to even make pre-textual arrests merely to have an individual’s immigration status checked.
“With ICE’s wide net casted, civil rights violation may run unchecked by questionable policing efforts. Most of the immigrants that were swept-up arbitrarily, committed Level 1 (low-level) offenses or have no criminal histories at all,” said Annie Banerjee, a Texas board certified immigration and national lawyer.
Migration Policy Institute wrote a report in 2009 on ICE’s Fugitive Operation Teams, finding that while FOT’s number increased capturing more individuals, 73 percent of the detainees had no criminal convictions and in North Carolina alone 83 percent of arrested immigrants were charged with traffic violations.
It was believed that Secure Communities was an opt-in program, but the agency reversed its position at an Oct. 6 press conference when DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated, “we don’t consider Secure Communities an opt in/opt out program.” ICE also does not monitor local or state agencies for civil rights or systematic violations such as ensuring that they are not just arresting persons to check their immigration status.
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