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ICE Announces Minor Deportation Policy Shift for Secure Communities

Posted: May 03, 2012

Immigrants arrested for minor traffic violations won’t get flagged for possible deportation proceedings until after they’re convicted, immigration officials announced on Friday.

The news came as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s response to a task force report released last September which recommended changes to the agency’s Secure Communities immigration enforcement program. With the new updates to the program, including a series of training videos, website updates and outreach sessions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has moved to adopt several of a federally appointed task force’s recommendations for the controversial and much-maligned deportation program.

Secure Communities sends the fingerprints of anyone who’s booked in a local or county jail to federal immigration officialswho can then flag someone for immigration detention. Fingerprint data is shared even if that person is never charged or is ultimately cleared of their crime. “ICE agrees that enforcement action based solely on a charge for a minor traffic offense is generally not an efficient use of government resources,” ICE wrote in its response. The policy would only apply to those who have an otherwise clean criminal record, and will not extend to those who’ve been arrested for a hit and run, reckless driving which results in a injury or on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The change was suggested by a federally appointed task force which said that these sorts of incidents damaged law enforcement officers’ community policing efforts. Immigrant advocates have long criticized Secure Communities for this reason. Immigrants in jurisdictions with active Secure Communities agreements begin to see police officers as immigration agents, and are less likely to report crime or serve as witnesses, they say. Immigrant and civil rights advocates have also raised concerns that Secure Communities allows police agencies to engage in discriminatory racial profiling. Immigrant rights experts have called the step insufficient change for the program. Read more here.

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