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Immigrant groups criticize ICE fingerprint dragnet

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  • Steven Robinson
    Immigrant groups criticize fingerprint initiative By Ivan Moreno The Associated Press July 26, 2010 Denver - The federal government is rapidly expanding a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26 9:58 PM
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      Immigrant groups criticize fingerprint initiative

      By Ivan Moreno
      The Associated Press
      July 26, 2010

      Denver - The federal government is rapidly expanding a program to identify
      illegal immigrants using fingerprints from arrests, drawing opposition from
      local authorities and advocates who argue the initiative amounts to an
      excessive dragnet.

      The program has gotten less attention than Arizona's new immigration law,
      but it may end up having a bigger impact because of its potential to round
      up and deport so many immigrants nationwide.

      The San Francisco sheriff wanted nothing to do with the program, and the
      City Council in Washington, D.C., blocked use of the fingerprint plan in the
      nation's capital. Colorado is the latest to debate the program, called
      Secure Communities, and immigrant groups have begun to speak up, telling the
      governor in a letter last week that the initiative will make crime victims
      reluctant to cooperate with police "due to fear of being drawn into the
      immigration regime."

      Under the program, the fingerprints of everyone who is booked into jail for
      any crime are run against FBI criminal history records and Department of
      Homeland Security immigration records to determine who is in the country
      illegally and whether they've been arrested previously. Most jurisdictions
      are not included in the program, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement has
      been expanding the initiative.

      Since 2007, 467 jurisdictions in 26 states have joined. ICE has said it
      plans to have it in every jail in the country by 2013. Secure Communities is
      currently being phased into the places where the government sees as having
      the greatest need for it based on population estimates of illegal immigrants
      and crime statistics.

      Since everyone arrested would be screened, the program could easily deport
      more people than Arizona's new law, said Sunita Patel, an attorney who filed
      a lawsuit in New York against the federal government on behalf of a group
      worried about the program. Patel said that because illegal immigrants could
      be referred to ICE at the point of arrest, even before a conviction, the
      program can create an incentive for profiling and create a pipeline to
      deport more people.

      "It has the potential to revolutionize immigration enforcement," said Patel.

      Patel filed the lawsuit on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organizing
      Network, which is concerned the program could soon come to New York. The
      lawsuit seeks, among other things, statistical information about who has
      been deported as a result of the program and what they were arrested for.

      Supporters of the program argue it is helping identify dangerous criminals
      that would otherwise go undetected. Since Oct. 27, 2008 through the end of
      May, almost 2.6 million people have been screened with Secure Communities.
      Of those, almost 35,000 were identified as illegal immigrants previously
      arrested or convicted for the most serious crimes, including murder and
      rape, ICE said Thursday. More than 205,000 who were identified as illegal
      immigrants had arrest records for less serious crimes.

      In Ohio, Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones praised program, which was
      implemented in his jurisdiction earlier this month.

      "It's really a heaven-sent for us," Jones said. He said the program helps
      solve the problem police often have of not knowing whether someone they
      arrested has a criminal history and is in the country illegally.

      "I don't want them in my community," Jones said. "I've got enough homegrown
      criminals here."

      Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman, said Secure Communities is a way for law
      enforcement to identify illegal immigrants after their arrest at no
      additional cost to local jurisdictions. Jones agreed.

      "We arrest these people anyway," he said. "All it does is help us deport
      people who shouldn't be here."

      Rusnok said ICE created the program after Congress directed the agency to
      improve the way it identifies and deports illegal immigrants with criminal
      backgrounds. ICE has gotten $550 million for the program since 2008, Rusnok
      said.

      Rusnok said the only place he knows of that has requested not to be a part
      of Secure Communities is San Francisco, which began the program June 8.
      Eileen Hirst, the chief of staff for San Francisco Sheriff Michael
      Hennessey, said it happened "without our input or approval."

      Hirst said the sheriff thought Secure Communities cast too wide a net and
      worried that it would sweep up U.S. citizens and minor offenders, such as
      people who commit traffic infractions but miss their court hearings.

      Hirst also said the program goes against San Francisco's sanctuary city
      policy that calls for authorities to only report foreign-born suspects
      booked for felonies.

      "Now, we're reporting every single individual who comes into our custody and
      gets fingerprinted," Hirst said.

      California Attorney General Jerry Brown denied Hennessey's request to opt
      out. Brown said that prior to Secure Communities, illegal immigrants with
      criminal histories were often released before their status was discovered.

      This month, Washington, D.C., police decided not to pursue the program
      because the City Council introduced a bill that would prohibit authorities
      from sharing arrest data with ICE out of concern for immigrants' civil
      rights. Matthew Bromeland, special assistant to the police chief, said
      police wanted the program and were talking with ICE about how address
      concerns from immigrant advocates before the bill forced them to halt
      negotiations.

      Colorado officials became interested in the program after an illegal
      immigrant from Guatemala with a long criminal record was accused of causing
      a car crash at a suburban Denver ice-cream shop, killing two women in a
      truck and a 3-year-old inside the store. Authorities say the illegal
      immigrant, Francis M. Hernandez, stayed off ICE's radar because he conned
      police with 12 aliases and two different dates of birth.

      A task-force assembled after the crash recommended Secure Communities as a
      solution.

      Evan Dreyer, a spokesman for Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, said Ritter
      recognizes that other states have had issues with the program and he wants
      to take time to consider the concerns raised by immigrant rights groups
      before deciding "how or if to move forward."

      The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition said in its letter to the governor
      that the Secure Communities is "inherently flawed and should not be
      implemented." CIRC said one of its main concerns is that in cases of
      domestic violence, where both parties may be taken into custody while
      authorities investigate a case, victims may feel reluctant to report a crime
      out of fear that their illegal status will be discovered.

      ICE maintains that only suspects arrested for crimes - and not the people
      reporting them - will be screened for their legal status.

      Read more: http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_15606054#ixzz0uqwqAOka

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