The federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities allows federal immigration officials to screen suspects who are brought into local jails. Several states have openly opposed the policy, which has resulted in the deportation of 280,000 people over the past five years.
Now immigrant advocates are gaining even more ground against the Secure Communities program as more cities, counties and states are agreeing that local police should not be used as immigration agents.
When a person is arrested, local police officers send fingerprints and other information to a federal database to determine if the person is wanted for any other crimes.
Under the Secure Communities program, U.S. immigration agents are allowed to use the information sent in to determine if the person could be in the country illegally. If it is suspected that the person could be in the country illegally and dangerous, immigration agents can ask local police to hold the person for up to 48 hours until they arrive to detain the person.
Opponents of Secure Communities say that the immigration status screening results in the deportation of individuals who do not pose a threat to the United States. Since it began five years ago, the program has received criticism from state and local governments, some of which have said that they will not enforce the program.
Recently, California legislators approved a bill that would block suspected undocumented immigrants from being held for immigration agents if they otherwise would be allowed to go free. The state's governor has until the middle of next month to sign the bill. Connecticut enacted a similar bill earlier this summer and other cities and counties are currently considering similar measures.
Ultimately, Secure Communities is still being enforced in most areas of the country, which means that the high deportation rates will likely continue. If you or someone you love is facing deportation or removal, it's important to fight the charges with a strong removal defense as the stakes are very high.
Source: USA TODAY, "Backlash grows against federal immigration screening in jails," Daniel C. Vock, Sept. 25, 2013