Opinion: Immigration: Will state attorney general support limiting Secure Communities?

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California Attorney General Kamala Harris is expected to meet next week with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano to discuss a bill that would require the state to revamp its participation in a controversial immigration program.

Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act in February. The measure would require California to renegotiate an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to place limits on Secure Communities, a controversial program launched in 2008 to track and deport dangerous criminals.


Currently, all counties in California must participate in program, which requires state and local police to 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.

However, some counties have sought to opt out of the program because police are concerned that taking the role of enforcer will make it more difficult to build trust in immigrant communities that are already fearful of reporting crimes or providing crucial information.

Harris has not indicated whether she supports the measures that would automatically opt out all 58 counties in California. Cities and counties that want to participate would be required to opt in.

Civil and immigrant rights groups say the program isn’t catching dangerous criminals but rather netting those immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. but have no convictions.

About 60% of the 87,534 immigrants deported under the program had minor or no criminal convictions, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s statistics.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety later this month.



Let police pursue criminals, not immigrants

-- Sandra Hernandez