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Opinion: Immigration: Review of jail fingerprint sharing program underway

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An outside expert has been hired to review the Secure Communities program.

A statistician has been brought in and is working with Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which investigates complaints and assists in policy evaluations. Both are said to be looking at data already collected.

Under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Program, state and local police must check the immigration status of people who have been arrested and booked into local jails by matching fingerprints against federal databases for criminal convictions and deportation orders.

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Secure Communities has come under scrutiny over the last two months, after thousands of documents, including internal agency memos, were made public indicating officials were unsure if cities and counties were required to participate, or could opt out.

Concerns were also fueled by DHS own numbers that indicate more than half of the 87,534 immigrants deported under the program had minor or no criminal records, even though the program was aimed a dangerous criminals.

Secure communities was launched in late 2008. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is asking Congress for $184 million to expand the program in fiscal year 2012.

Napolitano is right to seek outside help in crunching the numbers. It would help bring transparency and could quell critics.

Immigrant and civil rights groups oppose the program because of concerns it encourages racial profiling and pretextual arrests. At the same time, some local police chiefs and sheriffs have said they worry the program will damage their efforts at community policing in cities with large immigration populations.

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Let police pursue criminals, not immigrants

-- Sandra Hernandez

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