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ICE Secure Communities Program Draws Fire

Last month U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said a record number of foreign nationals were deported in the 12-month period ending September 30. She credits the federal program, Secure Communities, in part, for the record number of immigrant removals. Florida counties participate in the program.

Some communities in the country have indicated they do not want to participate in the program. Now several groups have filed a federal lawsuit to gain information on whether communities can refuse to participate in the immigration enforcement program.

Secure Communities links with booking centers across the country, including Florida's 67 counties. When a suspect is booked, the person's fingerprints are run through Homeland Security databases to determine whether a non U.S. citizen has allegedly violated immigration laws. Non-criminal undocumented immigrants reportedly have been deported as a result of the federal program.

The National Day Laborer Organization Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo law are suing to learn if communities can opt out or withdraw from the program. News that non-criminal removals have occurred as a result of the program has prompted some communities to express their unwillingness to participate in Secure Communities. No Florida community has come forward in opposition to the program.

In response to the federal lawsuit, ICE spokesperson Brian Hale says "Secure Communities does not require state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law." But the agency has not indicated whether a local community can withdraw from the program. ICE has noted that agencies that do not want to participate in the program must formally notify ICE and state identification bureau officials.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly removed more than 392,000 people during the one-year-period ending September 30. Roughly half of the removals were people with criminal records. Previously, non-criminal removals made up the majority of U.S. deportations.

Source: Miami Herald, "Immigration activists decry law enforcement program," Alfonso Chardy, 30 Oct 2010

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