Amid the recent furor surrounding Arizona’s immigration act (SB1070) and charges that the state was attempting to usurp federal responsibilities, critics overlooked federal programs that share immigration powers with local law enforcement.
Most recently, in March 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, announced a program to quickly and accurately identify illegal aliens who commit additional crimes in the United States.
Identities are established with fingerprints taken at the time of their arrests and bookings. These prints are checked against available Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DHS immigration records. Introduced during the closing year of the Bush administration, the effort is known as the Secure Communities Program (SCP).
The SCP strategy was designed by the Bush DHS and Department of Justice to improve public safety by transforming the way criminal aliens are identified and removed from the United States. Immigration advocates, especially Hispanics, see SCP efforts to detain and deport criminal aliens as civil rights violations.
These advocates, with the support of radical leftists in and out of Congress, continue to change their politically correct terminology and now identify illegal aliens as “undocumented immigrants who are not yet citizens.”
Nevertheless, as of October 2010, the Secure Communities Program was in place in 686 jurisdictions in 33 states. Plans are for the program to be established in all 50 states by 2013. SCP identifies criminal aliens through modern information sharing and prioritizes enforcement actions to ensure the apprehension and removal of dangerous criminal aliens.
State and local use of federal databases for SCP, including the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), allows fingerprints of arrestees to be compared to provide the arresting jurisdiction an immediate record of an individual’s criminal and immigration history. If a match is made, ICE evaluates the data and issues a detainer request for that individual. As of Sept. 31, 2010, ICE had reported 343,829 matches of data on criminal aliens.
The prioritizing portion of the program allows ICE to rate the level of an illegal alien’s immigration and criminal history. It is this prioritizing that most concerns illegal alien communities and their advocates. They contend that ICE has too broad a scope of authority and no articulated guidelines to determine the level at which an individual arrestee should be placed.
They say this is especially relevant when an individual is arrested but not convicted.
The SCP represents an ongoing trend in federal policy. Back in 1996, Congress had passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which in part amended the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by adding Section 287g.
That section authorized the deputizing of state and local law officers to enforce federal immigration laws. The SCP complements Section 287g by no longer requiring the physical presence of federal deputized immigration personnel at the point of arrest of criminal aliens. This effectively delegates immigration powers to federally deputized state and local law enforcement agencies.
Critics say that delegating authority results in wrongful arrests by federally deputized local police, racial profiling, and general discrimination. They complain that such programs are too costly for local governments because of the required training for officers and the processing, detaining, and transporting of arrested persons.
They also claim that the result is a lack of cooperation between the illegal alien community and the police, because many immigrants come from countries where police are seen as the enemy. Such programs, they say, keep the police from understanding the cultural differences and specific needs of “undocumented immigrants.” Thus such immigrants hesitate to report crimes to the police and to seek medical treatment at hospitals.
Regarding the SCP, Jazmin Segura of the Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network, states: “Secure Communities is a dangerous program that increases the collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE. The collaboration, which makes immigrants reluctant to trust local authorities, can critically undermine the health and well-being of all residents.”
How is it then that the nation’s hospital emergency rooms are being flooded with “undocumented immigrants” who receive free medical attention with no questions asked?
Opponents of the SCP implicitly deny the legal authority held by the nation, let alone by the states and cities, to enforce on-the-books federal immigration laws. Liberal bastions, such as New York City and San Francisco, are attempting to opt-out of the SCP primarily because they oppose enforcement of immigration laws.
Fortunately for the safety and stability of the nation, many areas welcome the SCP. In Fairfax County, Va., Sheriff Stan Barry states that the program “works very well for us,” and “allows us to identify illegal aliens in the community who have committed crimes, without spending any Fairfax County taxpayer money.”
Sheriff Barry is not alone. Jurisdictions within the southern border states and other states with high illegal alien populations agree that SCP helps them maintain public safety and cost effectiveness. Why then all the fuss about states usurping federal responsibilities?
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