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Police in nation's capital told not to ask about immigration status

The mayor of the nation's capital city has signed an executive order telling Washington D.C. police officers not to inquire into the immigration status of people they are questioning, even after an arrest, unless the person's immigration status is directly related to a primary criminal investigation. District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray wrote in a statement Wednesday, "This executive order ensures public safety by ensuring that our police resources are deployed wisely and our immigrant communities feel safe cooperating with those who are sworn to protect them."

This blog has reported several stories about some law enforcement agencies that have voiced concerns about the federal Secure Communities program and its potential to cause some difficulties in investigating local crimes. The objections indicate some agencies believe immigrants have been less likely to report crime or speak as witnesses for fear of being hauled in for a potential removal hearing in an Immigration Court. The Deputy Mayor for Public Safety in the nation's capital says the executive order does not mean the city is opting out of the federal Secure Communities program.

Secure Communities allows fingerprints taken in local jails to be screened through the Department of Homeland Security. Local law enforcement agencies generally share fingerprints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of conducting criminal background checks of arrestees. The FBI then shares those fingerprints with DHS, which screens the fingerprints for immigration status.

The Mayor of the capital city says he signed the executive order Wednesday to make clear local police in the District of Columbia are not in the business of enforcing immigration laws. Gray says if immigrants "are afraid to cooperate with authorities on criminal investigations because they fear it might endanger their presence in the United States or the presence of a loved one, then it endangers their public safety and that of our entire city."

Source: Fox News, "D.C. Mayor Orders Police Not to Check Immigration Statuses, Even in Arrests," Oct. 19, 2011

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