ICE drops Secure Communities agreements with states, says participation is mandatory

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So long as local police departments send fingerprint information to the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement can also check that data against its databases, ICE Director John Morton informed 39 state governors in an August 5 letter.

"No agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part," Morton said, revoking as moot agreements set up between states and ICE over a controversial effort known as Secure Communities.

Some state and local jurisdictions, including the state of New York and Illinois, have withdrawn from Secure Communities, but since the FBI is statutorily required to automatically share fingerprint data with the Homeland Security Department, a memorandum of agreement between states and ICE is unnecessary to make the program work, Morton said.

"For this reason, ICE has decided to terminate all existing Secure Communities MOAs," he added. ICE still anticipates rolling out the fingerprint data cross-check initiative across all jurisdictions by 2013; since the program's start in 2008, ICE has added 1,508 jurisdictions in 43 states.

Secure Communities has come under criticism as acting as a deterrent on the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants from seeking lawful redress should they be the victim of a crime. ICE's position has been detection of an illegal immigrant by law enforcement does not automatically turn into deportation; ICE takes into account criminal history, whether the person was previously deported or has an outstanding removal order from an immigration judge, family ties, duration of stay in the U.S., significant medical issues, and other circumstances, an addendum to Morton's letter states.

In a June congressional hearing, DHS officials said ICE personnel exercise "prosecutorial discretion" when deciding whether to remove illegal immigrants.

"It simply doesn't make sense from a law enforcement perspective to expend limited law enforcement resources on young people who pose no threat to public safety, have grown up here, and want to contribute to our country," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

ICE's August 5 determination that Secure Communities doesn't require local opt-in provoked a negative reaction among some advocacy groups.

"For DHS to act with such disregard for local leadership, community policing and fiscal prudence is an act of bad faith and bad policy," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Immigration Forum. More than 200 immigration and civil rights organizations signed a July 20 letter (.pdf) calling on Morton to halt the program.  

For more: 
- go to the ICE Secure Communities webpage

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