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Is new federal program just a sequel to Secure Communities?

President Obama drew praise from both law enforcement officials and immigrant advocacy groups back in November when he announced the termination of the Secure Communities program and the introduction of the Priority Enforcement Program, which is focused on deporting "felons, not families."

Interestingly, praise for the Priority Enforcement Program is now waning over criticism that it is perhaps not all that different from its predecessor.

Under Secure Communities, a database operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was linked with local jails, such that people booked into custody had their fingerprints run.

In the event they were flagged in the system, an "ICE detainer" would be issued asking locals officials to keep them in custody until such time as they could be picked up by agents -- sometimes beyond the length of their jail term.

Given that Secure Communities resulted in the deportations of not just violent, repeat criminals, but also vast numbers of undocumented -- and innocent -- immigrants, around 250 cities and counties passed legislation strictly limiting involvement in the federal program.

In recent developments, officials with both ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have recently been traveling to cities and counties across the nation to pitch the advantages of the Priority Enforcement Program, which they've been touting as "a kinder and gentler" version of Secure Communities.

Thus far, however, it appears as if many communities -- and immigrant advocacy groups -- have been unresponsive to the Priority Enforcement Program, which they say is perhaps just too similar to Secure Communities.

Specifically, they have the following questions:

  • Will the Priority Enforcement Program continue to have ICE agents examine fingerprints?
  • Will the Priority Enforcement Program truly focus on violent, repeat criminals and leave those whose only crime is entering the U.S. illegally alone?

For their part, both ICE and DHS are arguing that while they are indeed committed to deporting "felons not families," they need some degree of cooperation from local law enforcement in order to make this happen.

Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating story ...

If your loved one is being detained on an immigration violation, be certain to consider contacting an experienced legal professional to learn more about the law and the available options.

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