Colorado Should Adopt The “Secure Communities” Program To identify Illegal Immigrants And Their Criminal Histories

The AP reports that Colorado is the latest jurisdiction to debate a program to identify illegal immigrants and their criminal histories using fingerprints from arrests, called Secure Communities.  “[I]mmigrant groups have begun to speak up, telling the governor in a letter last week that the initiative will make crime victims reluctant to cooperate with police ‘due to fear of being drawn into the immigration regime.'” 

What is this draconian program?  “[T]he fingerprints of everyone who is booked into jail for any crime are run against FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records to determine who is in the country illegally and whether they’ve been arrested previously.”  It sounds like the E-Verify system for employers, but expanded to include searching criminal history arrests to enable immigration officials to prioritize pursuing deportation.

The AP’s appointed critic of the program, attorney Sunita Patel, argues that “because illegal immigrants could be referred to ICE at the point of arrest, even before a conviction, the program can create an incentive for profiling and create a pipeline to deport more people.”  Exactly how checking fingerprints after an arrest “create[s] an incentive for profiling,” Mr. Patel does not say.  That is because it does not; the arrestee is in custody already.  I suspect that Mr. Patel knows this.  He also knows that the concept of profiling (which is often misunderstood) gets lots of people worked up and that invoking it will get attention.

I suspect that Mr. Patel is mostly concerned that checking fingerprints will “create a pipeline to deport more people.”  That is the point of the program, so one would hope so.  And it seems to be a success:

Supporters of the program argue it is helping identify dangerous criminals that would otherwise go undetected. Since Oct. 27, 2008 through the end of May, almost 2.6 million people have been screened with Secure Communities. Of those, almost 35,000 were identified as illegal immigrants previously arrested or convicted for the most serious crimes, including murder and rape, ICE said Thursday. More than 205,000 who were identified as illegal immigrants had arrest records for less serious crimes.

Remember, the 240,000 identified as illegal immigrants who had arrest records were under arrest again at the time of identification.  Taking a closer look at illegal immigrants who have multiple arrests is not profiling; it is a good use of immigration enforcement resources. 

Indeed, one of the complaints against E-Verify is that it often fails to catch people who are not authorized to work in the U.S. because of identify theft.  Checking the fingerprints of people who have been arrested against prior criminal and immigration records seems to be a nice step forward on the enforcement front.

Here in Colorado, Governor Ritter may find it difficult to oppose the Secure Communities program regardless of his personal inclinations.  The program was recommended by task-force assembled to review the case of Francis M. Hernandez.  Mr. Hernandez is an illegal immigrant with a long criminal record who crashed his SUV into a truck , which in turn crashed into a Denver ice-cream shop in 2008.  He was convicted of killing two women in the truck and a 3-year-old child inside the store.  Hernandez had previously been arrested a dozen times in Colorado, but used 12 aliases and two dates of birth to avoid deportation.

According to the AP, Ritter’s spokesperson “recognizes that other states have had issues with the program and he wants to take time to consider the concerns raised by immigrant rights groups before deciding ‘how or if to move forward.'”  This does not even seem to be a close call.  The program allows states to refer illegal immigrants who are arrested for other offenses to the appropriate immigration authorities, and it apparently works as intended.  Governor Ritter’s office can be reached at (303) 866-2471 if anyone wants to weigh in.

Someone needs to ask Hickenlooper, McInnis, and Maes what they think of “Secure Communities.”  No one needs to bother asking Tancredo; I think we can guess his views.

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Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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