Immigration decision attacked



After years of seeking the cooperation of states for a controversial immigration program, the Obama administration has cut the states loose and gone it alone.

Under the program, called “Secure Communities,” fingerprints of every person booked by law enforcement are checked against federal homeland security databases to find immigration violations. (Fingerprints are taken from those arrested whether they are convicted of crimes or not.) This is in addition to FBI checks. However, the program is barred from acting against anyone who has not been convicted of a crime.

Nevada signed up on March 8, 2010, during the administration of Gov. Jim Gibbons. The agreement was between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Nevada Department of Public Safety, though some officials said the state agency can’t bind local law enforcement in the state’s highly decentralized law enforcement system.

As the number of states signing on to cooperate with the program grew, a backlash started to build because of sloppy procedures by ICE. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn revoked his state’s agreement to cooperate with the federal program because, “more than 30 percent of those deported from the United States, under the program, have never been convicted of any crime.” Quinn got that information from the federal government’s own figures.

Two other governors also withdrew from the program, and others were considering it. The House Hispanic Caucus asked President Obama to suspend the program, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California called on the Homeland Security inspector general to investigate emails she obtained that indicate federal officials misled local officials about their authority for the program.

Amid the growing controversy, the Obama administration cancelled all 40 state cooperative agreements. Federal officials who had been trying to romance states into cooperating stopped smiling, saying the program is a mandate on local governments, not an option, raising the question of why it had spent years trying to get agreements. In addition, they said they can use the FBI to divert fingerprints from local government over to ICE.

“Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part,” an ICE statement read.

However, the ICE agreement with Nevada says the agreement will “not affect a state’s existing relationship with the FBI.”

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) has condemned the federal cancellation of the state agreements, apparently on the grounds that the states can serve as a moderating influence on the feds.

In a prepared statement, PLAN’s Mario DelaRosa said, “Once again DHS is trying to rule by mandate. This is not Libya, where security agencies make up the rules as they go along. Local law enforcement agencies bear the costs of the program, including the erosion of trust between local police and immigrant communities that occurs whenever police engage in federal immigration enforcement.”

Law enforcement agencies in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties have already set up working arrangements with the feds.