Judge Rules US Immigration Enforcement to Release “Secure Communities” Docs
Thursday, a federal judge ruled that the decision-making process behind the controversial Secure Communities program must be revealed and requested documents be handed over.
In February, requests were made for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to share documents that would help clarify whether ICE had over-stepped and forced counties to participate in Secure Communities rather than making the program optional.
Secure Communities is a fingerprint-sharing program that would have the prints run through ICE databases. Previously, when fingerprints were taken, they were sent to the state, which ran them through FBI databases to see if the person had a criminal background.
This particular argument over Secure Communities addresses whether or not ICE was upfront about the optionality of the program. When first implemented in March of 2008, counties were told they could individually opt-out of the program even if it was being used in their state, and several voted to do so. ICE then came back and stated that the program was mandatory and fingerprint-sharing was to happen in states that had agreed to the program. Opting-out was not an option.
Those against Secure Communities as a whole say the program targets all undocumented immigrants, not just those ICE say they are going after – the violent/dangerous criminals. As a result, crimes like domestic violence go unreported as victims fear being fingerprinted. According to an August report, about one in four undocumented immigrants deported under Secure Communities had no criminal record.
While ICE is not currently commenting on the matter of opting out, they have previously stated that counties that have agreed to the program are required to send the fingerprints, but that they may opt-out of receiving information in return.
“They misrepresented the opt-out process,” said Uncover The Truth coordinator Sarahi Uribe. “ICE knows that isn’t opting out.”
With Thursday’s federal court ruling, ICE is now forced to hand over documentation they had actually agreed to release back in July. A representative for the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the organizations asking for the information, said she hopes the documents will provide a solution to the allow jurisdictions to turn fingerprints over to the FBI for background checks, but prevent them from going to ICE.