Homeland Security to investigate Secure Communities program - Los Angeles Times
- U.S. to investigate Secure Communities deportation program
Homeland Security's inspector general plans a review of the immigration enforcement program that purports to target 'serious convicted felons' but which some accuse of racial profiling.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), in seeking an… (J. Scott Applewhite, AP Photo)
May 18, 2011|
By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General plans an investigation of an immigration enforcement program that purports to target "serious convicted felons" for deportation but has ensnared many illegal immigrants who were arrested but not subsequently convicted of crimes or who committed minor offenses, a letter obtained Wednesday shows.
The letter from acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), who requested an investigation late last month, said the watchdog agency had already scheduled a review of the program, known as Secure Communities.
Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency launched the program in 2008 with plans for mandatory nationwide participation by 2013.
The review, Edwards wrote, aims to "determine the extent to which ICE uses the program to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens from the United States."
It will also examine cost, "the accuracy of ICE's data collection," whether the program is being applied equitably across communities, and the way ICE officials portrayed the program to states and counties, which were initially told they could opt out but were later informed that participation has always been mandatory.
Under the program, fingerprints routinely sent by local jails to the FBI for criminal background checks are shared with ICE.
Although local law enforcement does not actively participate, the program has turned jails in about 1,200 U.S. counties into immigration screening centers.
All 58 California counties are on board, though San Francisco and Santa Clara sought unsuccessfully to opt out.
Proponents, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, say the program is successfully targeting serious threats to public safety.
According to ICE, about 28,000, or 35%, of the people deported so far had been convicted of felonies including murder and rape.
An unknown number who appear in ICE data on the program as "noncriminals" or as having committed only misdemeanors had prior violent felonies here or in their home countries, or were previously deported and returned illegally, they note.
But opponents contend that by also sweeping up minor offenders or those never convicted of crimes, the program is dissuading illegal immigrants from cooperating with law enforcement.
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