Liberals Resist Even Dumbed-Down Immigration Checks

Liberal local governments and police agencies don’t like the Homeland Security Department’s Secure Communities program, which involves routinely checking the fingerprints of local prisoners for immigration status.

The Washington Post recently reported that Washington, D.C., and neighboring Arlington County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, remain cool to participating in the program.

Washington’s Police Chief Cathy Lanier prefers to pick and choose among suspects which ones get Immigration and Customs Enforcement fingerprint checks.

“I was trying to negotiate some kind of agreement before it [Secure Communities participation] became mandatory in 2013,” Lanier said.  “It’s a different ballgame now.”

Lanier said last year that Secure Communities immigration fingerprint checks might have prevented eight murders in the prior two years.

“But Lanier’s enthusiasm was tempered by her concern that the program, designed to detect suspects in police custody who are undocumented [sic] immigrants, would also ensnare people who had committed minor offenses, prompting immigrants not to report crimes and domestic abuse to police,” the Post reported last month.

As it is, the politically correct Lanier and the city council are blocking police in the nation’s capital from screening detainees’ fingerprints through immigration records.

In contrast, all jurisdictions in Virginia and about half in Maryland, including the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Prince George’s, now participate.

The 9/11 Commission recommended closing loopholes that enable aliens to escape notice once in the United States, even if encountered by state or local police.  The Secure Communities program grew out of that idea.

The commission exposed how the 9/11 terrorists easily exploited America’s immigration system.  For example, a Maryland state trooper pulled over Ziad Jarrah for speeding just two days before the illegal immigrant helped perpetrate a foreign attack on American soil. 

Jarrah was an illegal alien who’d overstayed an expired business visa.  After being ticketed, he piloted United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania because of the valor of its American passengers.  The trooper was unaware of his detainee’s immigration status.

Secure Communities works like this:  Local police agencies share with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the fingerprints of those they have arrested or detained.  ICE checks the prints against immigration records.  If it is determined that the detainee is an illegal alien, ICE may put a detainer on him and start the removal process.

ICE says this program has led to the deportation of 59,000 illegal criminal aliens (out of more than a quarter million illegal alien criminals the program has identified).

Secure Communities has its flaws.  Number one, it puts ICE in the driver’s seat.  State and local police enjoyed much greater flexibility during the Bush administration in the related 287(g) program.

Obama’s ICE drastically restricted the previously popular and effective 287(g) program, in terms of participation, ground rules, and design.  With Secure Communities, ICE has robbed local police of any say in whether an illegal or criminal alien is transferred to ICE.  And ICE is effectively supplanting the 287(g) jail model with Secure Communities.

A 2009 Center for Immigration Studies report I co-authored as a fellow at the center found the 287(g) program “cost-effective—much less expensive than other criminal alien identification programs such as Secure Communities and Fugitive Operations.  For example, in 2008 ICE spent $219 million to remove 34,000 fugitive aliens (mostly criminals).  In 2008, ICE was given $40 million for 287(g), which produced more than 45,000 arrests of aliens who were involved in state and local crimes.”

The Obama Department of Homeland Security has taken the position that local involvement in Secure Communities isn’t optional.  That’s a change from the administration’s initial stance of voluntary participation.

But localities “can opt not to receive the results of immigration queries,” an ICE official said.  Now, that would be a loophole.

As for the oft-repeated claim that programs like these will make immigrant crime victims hesitant to report crimes, that turns out to be more fear-mongering than fact.  In the Center for Immigration Studies report, “We could find no substantiated cases of crime victims who were removed as a result of having reported crimes to authorities, unless the victims happened to be criminals as well.”

“Since starting the 287(g) program at our jail, we have had more communication with the immigrant community, not less,” a 287(g) sheriff’s deputy said.  University of Virginia researchers found little difference between Virginia’s Prince William County Hispanic and non-Hispanic crime-reporting rates.

Because Secure Communities only deals with suspects already in custody for other lawbreaking, liberals don’t have much ground to stand on.  As meek and ICE-micromanaged as this program is (and as 287(g) is becoming), a dumbed-down jail model of finding illegal and criminal aliens for deportation is better than nothing.