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Crackdown On 'Dangerous' Illegal Immigrants Misfiring

Secure Communities: Homeland Security program incites serious misgivings

Hartford Courant Editorial

February 21, 2012

Rarely have so many state and local officials had so many misgivings about a federal program, one that is scheduled to be activated in Connecticut today.

The program is called "Secure Communities," a project of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is supposed to deport dangerous and violent convicted criminals who are in the country illegally. Under the program, fingerprints taken by local police that are now shared with the FBI will also be shared with ICE. If ICE has an interest in the arrestee, it can ask that the person be detained for further investigation.

If the program were actually getting dangerous criminals out of the country, few would complain. But it's not, very well, and it is causing a lot of collateral damage.

The program has been up and running in some parts of the country since 2008. Such were the complaints that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, created a task force last year to study how the program might be improved.

Task force members said the program was causing the deportation of minor offenders who were never convicted of a crime and those who were victims of crime. It follows that the program may have a negative effect on community policing by eroding the often tenuous trust between immigrants and officers and making immigrants more reluctant to report crime.

A study at the University of California, Berkeley found that the program had detained about 3,600 U.S. citizens, that 39 percent of those targeted for deportation had a child or spouse who was a U.S. citizen, and that detainees under the program faced a number of due process issues. Who takes care of the citizen children when a parent is deported?

Everyone from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who has admirably tried to develop a humane immigrant policy, has serious questions about whether Secure Communities is a misnomer. The state does not have the choice to opt out of the program. The rubber will meet the road when ICE tells the state to detain someone that the state would otherwise release. What happens then? Who blinks?

This largely could be avoided if Congress would create a reasonable national immigration policy. But no.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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