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Expansion of shared fingerprint program meets protests

Immigrants and activists rallied last Monday in front of New York City's Jacob Javits Federal Building to protest the federal "Secure Communities Program." The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement national program includes the sharing of information - including fingerprints - between state and local police and federal immigration officials.

The ICE sees the initiative as a tool for finding and deporting illegal aliens that commit crimes. Opponents to the new immigration law program, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, believe the program is akin to racial profiling and will result in the deportation of people who only commit minor crimes. In addition, they believe the initiative may actually result in less secure communities because of a strained relationship between immigrants and police.

In fact, one immigrant who has been in this country illegally for 20 years says she is now afraid to call the police and believes the new program will result in more domestic violence. Another opponent predicts it will lead to the deportation of productive immigrants and cost the state millions of dollars.

Here's how it works: local police routinely take your fingerprints if you're booked into jail. They send the prints to the FBI for a criminal record check. The FBI then sends them to the Homeland Security Department to cross reference the prints with immigration files. ICE then determines how to pursue the matter from there.

Currently implemented in various jurisdictions in 48 states, the Secure Communities program will be in place nationwide by the end of the year. Officials say they made changes o the program as a result of various state concerns. As a result, ICE created a public advocate position and civil rights training for police.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Expanded federal fingerprint program opposed in NY," May 14, 2012

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