Friday, August 5, 2011

Homeland Security cancels immigration agreements with states (Los Angeles Times)

Homeland Security cancels immigration agreements with states
By Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau
August 5, 2011, 1:46 p.m.

After months of protest from some Democratic governors, the Obama administration is cancelling more than 40 agreements it has signed with states under the Secure Communities program, although the move will have no apparent impact on the controversial effort to identify and deport convicted felons.

The Department of Homeland Security notified governors Friday that the program does not need their approval to operate, and the cancellations will not affect the ability to check the immigration status of anyone whose fingerprints are in an FBI criminal database, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

"No agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part ... . This change will have no effect on the operation of Secure Communities in your state," read the letter, sent via email to the offices of over 40 governors Friday.

Under the program, the FBI automatically sends fingerprints from local law enforcement agencies to U.S. Immigration and Customs to check a suspect’s immigration status. The program is used in more than 1,400 jurisdictions, including the entire Southwest border area.

But governors in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and several other states have expressed concern that the effort has ensnared minor offenders as well as more serious criminals, and has deterred some victims from coming forward to aid police.

Several governors had announced their intention to withdraw from the agreements, and the cancellations do not address at least some of their concerns.

Homeland Security officials say the fingerprint-sharing program has been highly successful. Over the last three years, more than 77,000 immigrants convicted of crimes, including more than 28,000 convicted of offenses such as murder, rape and sexual abuse of children, were deported after they were identified through the Secure Communities program.

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