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Opinion: Immigration reform: Secure Communities and California’s push to limit its impact

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California has moved a step closer to passing a bill that would roll back the state’s participation in Secure Communities, a controversial program aimed at deporting dangerous immigrants. Under the program, all arrestees’ fingerprints are shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Thursday, the Assembly passed the TRUST Act by a 43-22 vote. The measure would require that only the fingerprints of convicted felons be run through federal databases. The bill, sponsored by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would essentially reset the rules for how California counties participate in Secure Communities.

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Secure Communities was touted as a way to help identify and deport illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes. But over the past year, the program has come under fire from those who say it has failed to track down or deport dangerous immigrants. Department of Homeland Securities’ statistics indicate that many of those deported under the program had never been convicted of a crime or were guilty of only minor crimes.

Critics also accuse federal officials of misleading state and county officials who questioned whether participation in the program was option. Homeland Security officials appear to have initially told some local officials they could opt out but have since said no such provision exists.

California is among a growing number of states saying they want to modify or opt out of Secure Communities. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently ended his state’s agreement, though it’s unclear if Homeland Security will honor that decision.

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