Locals cannot opt out of ICE fingerprint program
By 2013, every police jurisdiction in the country is required to be part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Secure Communities program, through which the fingerprints of suspects booked into local jails will be sent to federal authorities to check their immigration status for possible deportation. Some local governments have expressed concern about the program’s potential extra costs and negative effects on police work in immigrant communities, but they will not have a choice to opt out of the initiative.
ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), launched Secure Communities in 2008, and it already has been activated in approximately 680 locations in 33 states, according to ICE. The program has been active in Arlington County, Va., for the past seven months. But, in September, the county’s board of supervisors asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to see if the county could opt out of Secure Communities because of concerns that it was hindering the police department’s communication with immigrants who were fearful of being reported to ICE. “ICE stated clearly that local communities [in which the Secure Communities system is already in place] do not have the option of withholding information from the program,” Donnelley said in her response to the board.
Along with concerns like those held by Arlington County officials, ICE does not reimburse police departments that hold prisoners until the agency can take them into custody, says Michele Waslin, spokesperson for the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center, which has been monitoring complaints about Secure Communities from local governments and others. “The local jurisdiction doesn’t have to hold that person at all because a detainer is a request, but often they do hold that person for an additional 48 hours,” Waslin says.