On Friday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or
ICE, canceled contracts with the 39 states participating in Secure
Communities -- a program in which local and state law enforcement
officials share fingerprints with the federal government.
investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or
DHS, did not cancel the contracts in order to end the program, but
rather to assert that ICE doesn't need a state's permission, in this
case via a contract, to operate the deportation program.
"ICE continues to work with its law enforcement partners across
the country to responsibly and effectively implement this federal
information sharing capability," ICE Director John Morton said in a
ICE's action came three months after Quinn ended Illinois' timid
two-year participation in Secure Communities. Since the program
started in November 2009, 76 of Illinois' 102 counties abstained
from participating, the most notable being Cook County, home to
"Illinois remains concerned that the program can have the
opposite effect of its state(d) purpose," said Brie Callahan, a
spokeswoman for Quinn's office. "Instead of making our communities
safer, the program's flawed implementation may divide communities
The federal program, created under Republican President George W.
Bush, was engineered to deport illegal immigrants who've been
convicted of a felony or at least three misdemeanors in the same
year in the United States or a previous crime in their home country.
Local police departments sent the fingerprints of anyone arrested
and fingerprinted for any reason to the state police and FBI. ICE
then can access the fingerprints through the FBI and check them
against several ICE databases of illegal and legal immigrants.
When ICE discovers a fingerprint linked to an illegal immigrant,
it looks at that person's immigration status and criminal history,
among other things, to determine whether to deport him.
The program does not cost the states any extra funding, according
ICE officials are using the states to deport illegal immigrants,
even if they aren't charged with a crime, instead of removing
hardened criminals as promised, Quinn said this spring when he ended
Secure Communities in Illinois.
Under federal law, illegal immigrants residing in United States
are violating federal civil statute, not criminal statute.
Quinn's announcement, which came after he won the 2010
gubernatorial election with the backing of many prominent Hispanic
leaders in the state, marked the first time a participating state
pulled out of the program completely.
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The 26 Illinois counties that were active in Safe Communities
sent more than 144,000 fingerprints to the FBI between November 2009
and April. During that time frame, ICE deported 773 people, of which
only 293, or 38 percent, were convicted felons, either in the United
States or another country the United States recognizes as sovereign,
according to ICE statistics.
"It's very clear from these numbers that the program is going
far, far beyond what it was originally sold as," said Fred Tsao, the
policy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights, an advocacy group for immigrants.
Tsao said the program undermines the trust between local law
enforcement and illegal immigrants, causing crimes to go unreported
and leading to an unwillingness to cooperate for fear of
Sheriffs in counties participating in Secure Communities are
split on its merits.
Kane and DuPage counties were the first two law enforcement
jurisdictions to sign up for the program in November 2009. Since
then, Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez has been an outspoken opponent
of the program.
"Since the inception of Secure Communities, there has been a
sweeping change, such as people in our custody for offenses such as
no valid driver's license being ... sent to deportation proceedings.
This does not align itself for the reason for launching Secure
Communities," Perez said at a news conference on the subject in
However, Clinton County Sheriff Mike Kreke said the program helps
his department remove illegal immigrants, convicted criminals or
not, from the community and send them back to their country of
"We've run across more illegals than illegals with a criminal
history. With the people with criminal history, either we don't have
them here, or we haven't run across them. I think it's a program
that doesn't add any more work to us and I think benefits everyone
involved," said Kreke, whose department joined Secure Communities in
About half of the country's law enforcement jurisdictions are
participating in Secure Communities, which is expected to be
nationwide by 2013.
Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]