October 1, 2010
Washington, D.C. - Earlier this week, the Santa Clara (CA) Board of Supervisors and the Arlington County (VA) Board both voted unanimously to opt-out of the Secure Communities program - an ICE program that allows the fingerprints of individuals booked into jails to be used for immigration enforcement purposes. Secure Communities has been controversial since its inception, with concerns being raised about the cost of the program, the potential for racial profiling, and the fact that the program has not complied with ICE's stated objective of focusing on individuals convicted of serious crimes.
However, the Washington Post reported today that opting out of its Secure Communities "is not a realistic possibility, and never was" for local police agencies. According to a senior ICE official:
Secure Communities is not based on state or local cooperation in federal law enforcement. The program's foundation is information sharing between FBI and ICE. State and local law enforcement agencies are going to continue to fingerprint people and those fingerprints are forwarded to FBI for criminal checks. ICE will take immigration action appropriately.
This is in direct conflict with an August 17, 2010 ICE memo laying out an opt-out process, which was later confirmed by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a September 7, 2010 letter to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. ICE has provided conflicting messages about Secure Communities since the program was first rolled out in March 2008.
Secure Communities is a rapidly expanding program, currently active in more than 650 jurisdictions in 32 states. It is expected to be active in every state by 2011 and in all of the 3,100 state and local jails by 2013. Yet there is much confusion about what the program is and how it works. In the current environment confusion and the lack of transparency undermine the trust necessary to properly implement the program and achieve legitimate goals. It is important that communities educate themselves about Secure Communities and urge ICE to be more forthcoming with information about the program.
For more information on Secure Communities and immigration detainers, see:
Secure Communities: A Fact Sheet (IPC Fact Check, October 2010)
The Secure Communities Program: Unanswered Questions and Continuing Concerns (IPC Special Report, November 2009)
Counties Say No to ICE's Secure Communities Program, But is Opting Out Possible? (Immigration Impact Blog, October 2010)
Immigration Detainers: A Comprehensive Look (IPC Fact Check, February 2010)