Secure Communities Program Isn’t Getting Any Better, Despite What the Government Says

We have heard countless times how well the Secure Communities program is doing. The good press is a lot of rubbish.

For at least the last three years, the government has baldly stated, time and time again, that the Secure Communities program only targeted dangerous criminal aliens. Even when asked multiple times if that is truly the case, the administration has insisted they were only deporting immigrants with criminal convictions that were clearly a danger to the public.

The government good press is a lot of rubbish, largely because what they say and what they do are millions of miles apart. In reality, Secure Communities does not make a distinction between convicted dangerous felons and nonviolent people arrested for civil immigration violations. And that is a big difference. Just spend time researching the issue, and you will find, for example, that in California alone, over half of the 75,000 deportees had no criminal record, or conversely, only had misdemeanor convictions.

What really happens under this program is that the police send fingerprints of everybody they book to the FBI. There, they are checked in criminal databases. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) run the prints against immigration records, and on finding a match, put out a “detainer,” asking that the person be held for two days. No one has apparently figured out yet that there is a big difference between a drug runner and an individual driving without a license. Thus, all detainees sit in jail for at least two days, if not longer, and are either transferred to federal custody or released.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is, because many local law enforcement agencies are short on police officers and resources. They do not see any point in filling their jails with non-dangerous arrestees, leaving no room for the “real” criminals. Additionally, this type of harassment does not help community policing relationships with the Latino contingent. Instead, it makes them even more reluctant to talk to the police.

California has found a work-around solution for this, their Trust Act, which requires police to let detainees go who have posted bail, do not face serious charges and have no previous criminal convictions. This isn’t the first state to look at ways to get around the Homeland Security detainer farce. Cook Country, Illinois, New York and the District of Columbia have similar rules. You have to wonder what the country is coming to when you have to keep making laws to circumvent other laws.

It needs to be emphasized that California’s Trust Act is not what Arizona tried to pull off with their attempt at drafting an immigration law, the one the Supreme Court rejected as being unconstitutional. However, this is really not the issue. The issue is whether or not Obama is going to fix the program or discontinue it. Right now, it looks like it should be discontinued.

Sally Odell – Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, PA is an immigration lawyer in Miami with immigration law offices in Orlando and Miami Florida. To learn more, visit

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