Immigration Program Rejected by Third State

Tuesday, 07 Jun 2011 09:36 AM

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Massachusetts has joined Illinois and New York in refusing to participate in a fingerprint-sharing program key to the Obama administration’s immigrant enforcement program. The move by Obama ally Gov. Deval Patrick is the latest blow to the program that has been meeting with resistance, The New York Times reports.

All three states that have refused to participate have large immigrant populations and are led by Democratic governors. Federal authorities, however, maintain the Secure Communities program is mandatory and that state cannot opt out.

In a June 3 letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Massachusetts secretary of public safety and security, Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, said, “We are reluctant to participate if the program is mandatory and unwilling to participate if it is voluntary,” the Times reported.

An official with the Homeland Security Department said the program would be expanded into Massachusetts because it was required by a federal law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “We are not going to stop this program because of the governors,” the official said, according to the Times, “It is a program that is mandated by law that has the support of the administration and the Congress.”

Under the program, anyone booked into a jail would have their fingerprints checked against the FBI criminal database and against a Homeland Security database of immigration violations. The Secure Communities program started under the George W. Bush administration and was expanded by President Barack Obama.

It is currently operating in more than 1,300 localities and 42 states. Despite the action by the state, Boston started a Secure Communities program in 2008, the Times reported.

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