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ICE adds more Secure Communities and immigration group contests program’s results

As the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) added 10 more counties to the list of local jurisdictions operating under its federal biometric identification information-sharing program, an immigrants’ rights group contested the program’s results.

ICE said it had activated its Secure Communities program in 10 Alabama counties on May 25. The additions bring the total of Alabama jurisdictions activated under the program to 25, according to ICE. Nationwide, said the agency, 1,315 jurisdictions in 42 states have been activated.

The program, said ICE, helps federal immigration officials identify criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails by running their fingerprints against federal immigration databases when they are booked into the local system. The additional Alabama counties include: Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay, Colbert, Coosa, Cullman, Franklin, Jackson, Shelby, and Talladega.

"Secure Communities enhances public safety by enabling ICE to identify and remove criminal aliens more efficiently and effectively from the United States," said Secure Communities Acting Assistant Director Marc Rapp. "As we expand ICE's use of biometric information sharing nationwide, we are helping to keep communities safe and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system."

ICE said since it began using enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008 through April 30, 2011, it has removed more than 77,000 criminal aliens including more than 28,000 level 1 offenders convicted of aggravated felonies like murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children.

Immigrants’ rights group National Day Laborer Organization (NDLON) refuted that claim. In a statement on May 25, the group said “an alarmingly high number of deportations” under the program involve immigrants with no criminal records.  “In Virginia, 27% of Secure Communities deportations involved non-criminals, and 55% involved non-criminals or people charged with Level 1 offenses,” it said. “In California, 27% of deportations involved non-criminals and 55% were either non-criminals or those charged with Level 1 offenses,” it added. Illinois, said NDLON, had the highest number of non-criminal deportations.  “[Thirty six] percent of those deported being non-criminals, and an alarming 69% either non-criminals or immigrants charged with low-level offenses,” it said.

Illinois governor Pat Quinn told ICE in a May 4 letter that his state was moving to end its participation in the Secure Communities program. Quinn’s May 4 letter to ICE included a notice from Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau that said the program was being used contrary to its stated purposes. Grau’s notice said the program was meant to identify, detain and remove criminal aliens that have been convicted of serious criminal offenses. He said more than 30 percent of those deported under it from Illinois haven’t been convicted of a serious crime.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General has said it plans to investigate the program and claims of criminal deportation.


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