Monday, May 23, 2011
A controversial program administered by the Department of Homeland Security is the subject of an internal inquiry. Secure Communities has been under fire for stepping up deportations of noncriminals.
SAN DIEGO Secure Communities was launched in 2008, with plans for mandatory nationwide participation by 2013. It requires local jails around the country to share detainees' fingerprints with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Twelve-hundred counties nationwide were assigned the program without the ability to opt out, as part of a federal effort to increase deportations.
"A major concern around this program is whether or not it's doing what it says it's doing," said Britney Nystrom, Director of Policy at the National Immigration Forum in Washington, a think tank that has criticized the program from the start. "Its priority should have been identifying and removing individuals who pose a threat to national security or a risk to public safety."
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-California) requested an investigation into Secure Communities late last month. According to ICE, about 28,000, or 35 percent, of those who have been deported so far under the program have been convicted of serious felonies like murder and rape.
"What is concerning is that the numbers that have been released about this program, contain many individuals who are identified and ultimately removed as a result of Secure Communities and who have no conviction whatsoever," said Nystrom.
Throughout the country, a majority of deportees had minor convictions such as driving offenses, low level property crimes or immigration related offenses.