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Feds cancel state Secure Communities agreements, with no change

The Obama administration announced Friday it is cancelling its agreements with roughly 40 states related to the Secure Communities program. A number of states, and local law enforcement agencies, raised concerns with the controversial program saying it can harm relationships and local law enforcement efforts to control crime.

The cancellation of the agreements is not expected to have any impact upon the use of the program. Secure Communities allows the FBI to share fingerprint data with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to check on an individual's immigration status during a background check. The program can lead to deportation after a removal hearing in an immigration court if a person's fingerprints are flagged by ICE.

The Department of Homeland Security notified the states of the decision to cancel the agreements made between the states and the federal government in a letter delivered via e-mail Friday. The letter says, in part, "No agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part."

Criticisms of the program arose after a number of relatively minor offenders were reportedly swept up in the immigration status checks. Local law enforcement agencies say the program tends to deter victims and witnesses from coming forward to assist police in criminal investigations. The FBI automatically sends fingerprint data to ICE when local law enforcement agencies send the data to the FBI to conduct background checks.

Homeland Security says the Secure Communities program has led to deportation orders of more than 77,000 immigrants during the past three years. The cancellation of agreements with the states "will have no effect on the operation of Secure Communities" in each state, according to Friday's letter. In other words, the cancellation of the agreements with the states does not cancel use of the program between the federal agencies.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Homeland Security cancels immigration agreements with states," Brian Bennett Aug. 5, 2011

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