Opinion: Secure Communities under fire again


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Secure Communities, a controversial immigration enforcement program, is under fire again. This time from a retired police chief.

Arturo Venegas, a former Sacramento police chief, was appointed to serve on a federal task force created to review the program. This week he announced he was resigning from the task force because Secure Communities was ‘undermining public safety’ and he couldn’t endorse a forthcoming report by the group.


As reporter Paloma Esquivel noted in Friday’s Los Angeles Times story, a draft of the report states that Secure Communities could actually result in ‘greater levels of crime’ because members of immigrant communities would be afraid to step forward as victims of or to report crimes.

Under Secure Communities, state and local law enforcement officers are required to share the fingerprints of everyone booked into a jail with federal immigration officials. The program was launched in 2008 as a way to find and deport serious criminals, but it has led to the deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants with no criminal convictions, or only minor ones.

The Obama administration formed the federal task force in response to widespread criticism from state officials and some police groups, along with immigrant rights groups, who said Secure Communities undermined community policing.

The Department of Homeland Security has every right to enforce existing immigration laws and certainly should prioritize who it goes after to protect all communities. But it seems it can’t figure out a way to make Secure Communities work despite a recent memo declaring it was prioritizing deportation cases in immigration court.

Perhaps the Obama administration could revamp the program so that it checks the fingerprints of those arrested after the person is arraigned in court. That would help avoid claims of racial profiling or accusations that Secure Community is ensnaring individuals who are arrested for minor violations, such as selling food on the street, but never prosecuted.

Secure Communities is also problematic because it is a redundant program. Consider that federal immigration officials currently have the Criminal Alien Program, which screens local jails and state prisons for deportable immigrants convicted of crimes.


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--Sandra Hernandez