Saturday, April 23, 2011

Calif. congresswoman: Immigration officials lied (AP c/o San Jose Mercury News)

Calif. congresswoman: Immigration officials lied
The Associated Press
Posted: 04/23/2011 02:56:31 PM PDT
Updated: 04/23/2011 04:15:09 PM PDT

SAN JOSE, Calif.—A Northern California congresswoman has accused federal immigrations officials of lying when they said counties and states could opt out of a program that checks the immigration status of people arrested and booked into local jails.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose on Friday called for an investigation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials following a review by her office of internal correspondence about the Secure Communities program.

That correspondence—recently released by the Department of Homeland Security in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit—shows the Obama administration gave communities no choice but to participate in the program after some refused.

Santa Clara County, where San Jose is the county seat, and San Francisco were among the communities that sought to opt out of Secure Communities.

Additionally, ICE officials continued discussing whether the program was voluntary even after telling Congress and law enforcement agencies that participation wasn't required, according to the documents.

"It is inescapable that the (Department of Homeland Security) was not honest with the local governments or with me," Lofgren told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't have a government department essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress. This is not OK."

Lofgren said she wants the probe to include Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton. ICE falls under the Department of Homeland Security.

In a statement, the department said the program was never voluntary.

"Unfortunately, this was not communicated as clearly as it should have been to state and local jurisdictions by ICE when the program began," the statement said. "Thanks to outreach with local jurisdictions and members of Congress, we have since made the parameters of the program clear to all stakeholders involved."

Supporters say Secure Communities has led to the deportation of thousands of immigrants convicted of major violent offenses.

Critics say it has ensnared immigrants who were never charged or charged with minor offenses. They also say it makes illegal immigrants reluctant to cooperate with authorities and can lead to racial profiling.

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