According to The New York Times, Massachusetts is now the third state to withdraw from “Secure Communities,” an information sharing program designed to identify and remove deportable immigrants by sharing fingerprint information. An individual booked in a county jail, for example, would not only have his/her fingerprints checked against the FBI database but also against DHS’s system for any immigration violations. State officials questioned whether the program could deliver on its purported objective of improving public safety by removing aliens convicted of serious crimes. Citing fears that the program may have the unintended effect of deterring the reporting of crimes and impeding cooperation with law enforcement, law enforcement officials considered the program overbroad. Conflicting statements issued by Department of Homeland Security officials also contributed to confusion over program implementation and even whether participation was optional. (Apparently, participation is mandatory and is supposed to be effective in all jurisdictions by 2013.) Massachusetts is taking a courageous stand that makes sense. Implementing a program of this nature will only lead to abuse. It theoretically may help in apprehending criminal aliens who are convicted of serious crimes, but at what cost? The majority of people who seem to be apprehended these days by ICE are non-criminal aliens who get caught up in ICE’s dragnet. Enlarging the scope and breadth of ICE’s powers will turn this country into a police state. It will undermine immigrant confidence in law enforcement as well as discourage reporting of crimes. On a positive note, ICE announced last Friday that it will re-examine its internal policies to ensure that only serious criminals are the focus of this program. Effective immediately in fact ICE will establish a new detainer form which limits the detention of undocumented immigrants without charges to 48 hours.
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