States balk at pro­gram to de­port il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Mas­sachusetts an­nounced June 6 that it will refuse to join the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Se­cure Com­mu­ni­ties ini­tia­tive, be­com­ing the lat­est state to balk at the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s key anti-il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion pro­gram de­signed to tar­get gang mem­bers and vi­o­lent felons for de­por­ta­tion.

Fol­low­ing on the heels of Illi­nois and New York, which this year said they would try to opt out of the pro­gram, the move sig­nals grow­ing dis­con­tent from usu­ally re­li­able Demo­cratic ter­ri­tory over Pres­i­dent Obama’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, which is now draw­ing fire from both sides of the aisle.

“The gov­er­nor and I are du­bi­ous of the com­mon­wealth tak­ing on the fed­eral role of im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment,” Mas­sachusetts Pub­lic Safety Sec­re­tary Mary El­iz­a­beth Hef­fer­nan wrote to U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, the divi­sion of the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment that runs the pro­gram.

It comes as more states are chal­leng­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion ef­forts. From the right, Ari­zona has led a battle to em­power lo­cal po­lice to check im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, while the re­bel­lion against Se­cure Com­mu­ni­ties high­lights con­cerns from the left that Mr. Obama is de­port­ing record num­bers of il­le­gal aliens, many of whom do not have the ex­ten­sive crim­i­nal records on which the pres­i­dent has said he wants to fo­cus.

But it was un­clear whether Mas­sachusetts has any op­tion. Se­cure Com­mu­ni­ties op­er­ates on fin­ger­prints that lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies send to the FBI ev­ery time some­one is ar­rested and booked. Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say they re­tain the right to run them through im­mi­gra­tion data­bases to see whether there are il­le­gal aliens who should be pri­or­i­tized for de­por­ta­tion.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment, not the state or lo­cal law en­force­ment agency, de­ter­mines what to hear tes­ti­mony on a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the pro­gram.

From within the ad­min­is­tra­tion, Home­land Se­cu­rity’s in­spec­tor gen­eral has an­nounced an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether the pro­gram does strive “to iden­tify and re­move dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal aliens” from the U.S., or strays be­yond that.

Rep. Zoe Lof­gren of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s im­mi­gra­tion sub­com­mit­tee, has asked the in­spec­tor gen­eral to also look at whether ad­mi­nis-

Fol­low­ing on the heels of Illi­nois and New York, which this year said they would try to opt out of the pro­gram, the move by Mas­sachusetts sig­nals grow­ing dis­con­tent from usu­ally re­li­able Demo­cratic ter­ri­tory over Pres­i­dent Obama’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, which is now draw­ing fire from both sides of the aisle.

im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment ac­tion, if any, is ap­pro­pri­ate,” ICE spokes­woman Ni­cole A. Navas said. “Only fed­eral of­fi­cers make im­mi­gra­tion de­ci­sions, and they do so only af­ter an in­di­vid­ual is ar­rested for a crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tion of state law, sep­a­rate and apar t from any vi­o­la­tions of im­mi­gra­tion law.”

ICE says that about 42 per­cent of states and lo­cal­i­ties are part of the pro­gram and that the en­tire coun­try will be cov­ered by 2013.

As of May 31, just one Mas­sachusetts lo­cale, Suf­folk County, par­tic­i­pated in Se­cure Commu- ni­ties. Half of New York’s 62 coun­ties, and about a quar­ter of Illi­nois’ coun­ties were signed up.

Through March 31, ICE said, the pro­gram had re­sulted in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tions of 151,590 crim­i­nal aliens and 77,160 of their de­por­ta­tions.

That has helped bol­ster the record level of de­por­ta­tions, which Mr. Obama has touted as a ma­jor step in chang­ing im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment away from go­ing af­ter rank-and-file im­mi­grants and to­ward crim­i­nals.

Im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates, though, say the pro­gram is lead­ing to de­por­ta­tions of il­le­gal aliens who have no crim­i­nal records, but whom the fed­eral gov­ern­ment tar­gets once they are ar­rested on mi­nor charges.

Over­all in fis­cal year 2010, ICE de­ported 392,862 aliens, and 195,772 had crim­i­nal records while 197,090 did not.

The re­bel­lion against Se­cure Com­mu­ni­ties is spread­ing rapidly. His­panic mem­bers of Congress have chal­lenged the pro­gram’s direc­tion, and last week Los An­ge­les’ city coun­cil is slated tra­tion of­fi­cials mis­led lo­cal­i­ties about the abil­ity to opt out.

ICE fired one con­trac­tor who had writ­ten emails in­di­cat­ing that opt­ing out was an op­tion, but Ms. Lof­gren said ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials them­selves, in­clud­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano, had in­di­cated the same thing. The fired con­trac­tor, Dan Cad­man, has writ­ten his own letter to Ms. Lof­gren charg­ing that ICE of­fi­cials used him as a scape­goat, and that it was they, not he, who tried to mis­lead.

“It comes down to this: ICE painted it­self into a cor­ner and needed some­one to blame,” he wrote.

Democrats are torn over the pro­gram. Some want to end the pro­gram, while oth­ers ar­gue that it should be mended so that it truly tar­gets crim­i­nal aliens.

Over­all sup­port in Congress for en­force­ment mea­sures con­tin­ues to be strong.

Two weeks ago, the House, while de­bat­ing the Home­land Se­cu­rity spend­ing bill, adopted sev­eral amend­ments to strengthen en­force­ment, and eas­ily turned back an amend­ment to re­strict the 287(g) pro­gram, which is a vol­un­tar y agree­ment be­tween lo­cal­i­ties and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to train po­lice to help en­force im­mi­gra­tion law.

The clash be­tween states and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has grown heated over the past few years, be­gin­ning with Ari­zona’s de­ci­sion to re­quire all em­ploy­ers to check their new hires against a vol­un­tary fed­eral data­base for work el­i­gi­bil­ity. Ari­zona en­acted an­other law last year that would have given po­lice broader pow­ers to check im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

The po­lice pow­ers law has been mostly blocked by the courts, but late last month the Supreme Court up­held Ari­zona’s em­ploy­ment data­base checks law.

On June 6, the Supreme Court di­rected a fed­eral ap­peals court to re­visit its de­ci­sion over­turn­ing a lo­cal em­ploy­ment-checks or­di­nance in Ha­zle­ton, Pa., in light of the rul­ing on Ari­zona.

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