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Secure Communities program changes to reduce deportations

On the topic of immigration, the current administration has articulated a focus on deporting convicted criminals who are in the United States without authorization, rather than those who are otherwise adhering to the laws of the land. This U.S. immigration law policy has been illustrated in several sweeps held in locations throughout the nation including Miami, called Operation Cross Check.

Late last month the administration announced additional changes designed to further the federal government's goal. The changes have been made to a program called Secure Communities.

Adopted in October 2008, the federal fingerprinting program compares fingerprints of anyone booked by the police throughout the nation against databases created by both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Individuals in police custody who were found to be undocumented immigrants were in some cases then deported.

While there were undoubtedly cases where the individuals facing deportation were convicted criminals, thus in alignment with the government's goal, in other instances, undocumented immigrants were facing that same fate after being detained for minor traffic offenses such as speeding, not having a driver's license or failing to replace a burned-out tail light.

Late last month the Department of Homeland Security announced that individuals in the U.S. without authorization will no longer automatically be held in anticipation of deportation, after being stopped by law enforcement for a traffic violation when they do not have an existing criminal record. Though the individual could still potentially be deported, the revision to the policy means that a hold or detainer will only be considered by authorities if the individual is convicted.

The change, which was announced shortly after the Supreme Court heard arguments on Arizona's immigration law last month, was one of several that were recommended by a task force last fall. The timing may not have been a coincidence. The Secure Communities program has been touted by some as making state immigration enforcement unnecessary.

Source: The New York Times, "Fewer Illegal Immigrants Stopped for Traffic Violations Will Face Deportation," Julia Preston, April 27, 2012

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