While federal immigration authorities are not yet confirming when its new program to share fingerprint information to determine the immigration status of suspects will start, they are taking steps that would mitigate concerns.
The Secure Communities program, , statewide, will have local law enforcement officers run fingerprints of suspects through federal databases to determine whether a suspect is in the country illegally. ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the agency's policy is confirm the program's start only after it is actually launched.
As it prepares to roll out the program, ICE has taken the following steps to improve its implementation, according to a federal immigration official.
- ICE plans to help protect witnesses and victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes. The policy comes after
- Also, ICE plans to focus the program on illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes, including murder and rape and individuals who pose a threat to national security.
- ICE also plans to delayed detaining illegal immigrants suspected of minor motor vehicle offenses until they are convicted.
- ICE also plans to train local law enforcement officers on how to implement the program in accordance with civil rights laws.
- ICE will expand outreach to police and other officials to better educate them on the program.
The program starts in the wake of recent developments in the case of
Even with the improvement steps, the director of REACH, a Waltham-based domestic violence prevention group that often works with immigrants, said she still has concerns.
With the program in place, immigrants would be more fearful of asking for assistance if they are in a bad domestic situation because they would fear deportation, Van Zandt said. Domestic violence victims would also fear deporatation because it would seperate them from their children, Van Zandt said.
“There is already an undercurrent of fear [between police and immigrants] for a lot of reasons. What this does is create an additional barrier to keep all people safe," said REACH Executive Director Lauren Van Zandt in an interview with Patch.
Also, Van Zandt said the program is unncessary beacuse authorities already have the ability to share fingerprints with federal law enforcement agencies.
It is already active in Boston and overall 2,792 jurisdictions in 48 states are using it, according to a federal immigration official. Nationwide activation will be complete by the end of 2013.
More than 135,000 people have been deported as a result of the program and 49,000 of those were convicted of serious crimes, according to a federal immigration official.
“Secure Communities has proven to be the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach of the past and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators,” said Feinstein in a statement to Patch.