The ICE is on a mission to secure many states through its Secure Communities Program that would essentially identify and remove criminal aliens. Through this plan, ICE’s mission is to improve public safety by implementing a broad approach to identify and deport criminal aliens out of the United States. Although, the argument that has been raised regarding the issue is that the Secure Communities Program passes the duty of arresting illegal immigrants on to local communities, which many government officials beg to differ.
The Secure Communities Program was first introduced in 2008 and is planned to be in every jurisdiction by 2013, according to the ICE. ICE claims that they would like to install the Program in every state and local facility nationwide, which could come across as a federal mandate. In a decision involving the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and the Arlington County (VA) board, both opted-out of the Secure Communities Program, which would enable access to the fingerprints of individuals who are in jail with immigration databases. Although, according to the Washington Post, opting out of a program as such is not an option and never was in the past. However, ICE did not make it clear as to whether the Program is voluntary itself and this is where much confusion rises among government leaders.
Unbeknownst to most, this ICE Program is already active in 658 jurisdictions in 32 states. The jurisdictions that have signed up for this mandate have not directly signed through ICE. So, how exactly have certain jurisdictions gone about enacting this Program? The State Identification Bureaus is to blame for this. The Bureaus is held accountable in transmitting all fingerprints from local jails to all federal agencies, and by doing so, they enter into Memorandums of Understanding with the ICE to initiate the Secure Communities process. Recently, several jurisdictions opted-out of the program but were given many different responses by government officials regarding the matter. For example, four months ago, Mr. Sheriff Hennessey of San Francisco did not want to implement the Secure Communities Program in his jurisdiction, therefore opting-out from the ICE. Upon taking the opt-out option, Mr. Hennessey was informed by the Attorney General that his request had been denied and that opting-out was not an option.
It was supposed that all California jurisdictions were to submit criminal fingerprints to the immigration databases and the FBI, which both work hand-in-hand with the State Identification Bureau. Much more confusion regarding the policy became apparent when the ICE would not give an immediate response to several confused jurisdictions when prompted for information regarding the opt-out policies. Finally, ICE decided to release a statement to clear the issue up. According to ICE, jurisdictions have the right to opt-out of the policy if they wish. “If a jurisdiction does not wish to activate on its scheduled date in the Secure Communities deployment plan, it must formally notify its state identification bureau and ICE in writing (email, letter, or fax).” “Upon receipt of that information, ICE will request a meeting with federal partners, the jurisdiction, and the state to discuss any issues and come to a resolution, which may include adjusting the jurisdiction’s activation date in or removing the jurisdiction from the deployment plan.”
A senior ICE official stated that the program’s first and most important task is the sharing of information between the FBI and ICE. Fingerprints of those taken in are mandatory among the state and local law enforcement. After this stage, they must be sent to the FBI for criminal checks. ICE claims they must take the necessary steps regarding immigration action.
It is of importance for the United States to consider installing the Program in all jurisdictions because it would ensure that the local Law Enforcement Agencies gain access to integrated record checks of criminal history and immigration status of the individuals who are brought into custody, thus creating a safer environment. There is still much discussion concerning the program, but many jurisdictions relish in the fact that they have the power to opt-out if they choose not to participate. Only time will tell if this ICEenacted Program is a need for our country.
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