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Controversial Secure Communities program coming to an end

For the past several years, one of the most contentious aspects of U.S. immigration law has been the federal detention and deportation program known as Secure Communities.

For those unfamiliar with Secure Communities, it is essentially designed to link local jails with a database run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, such that anyone booked into custody has their fingerprints run through the system.

In the event that federal agents discover potential immigration violations via the database, they issue so-called "ICE detainers" asking local law enforcement to keep the person in custody -- often beyond the length of their jail term -- until such time as they can be taken into custody.

While Secure Communities was championed as an effective means of capturing and deporting violent, repeat criminals, critics argued that the program actually resulted in the deportation of large numbers of undocumented -- and innocent -- immigrants, while further undermining immigrants' trust in local law enforcement.

Indeed, the backlash against Secure Communities became so severe that hundreds of local and state governments either passed measures limiting involvement in the federal program or refused to participate altogether.

In recent developments, President Obama, as part of his overall immigration strategy, announced last week that Secure Communities was effectively terminated and would now be replaced with the Priority Enforcement Program, which focuses on deporting "felons, not families."

Curiously, the program will be similar to Secure Communities in many respects as fingerprint records will continue to be examined by ICE agents and local jail officials will still be asked to hold people beyond their sentences. However, ICE agents will now be required to specify whether the person is a viable candidate for deportation or is the subject of an outstanding removal order.

It will indeed be interesting to see how this situation develops, and whether the Priority Enforcement Program is accepted by both advocacy groups and lawmakers.

If you would like to learn more about your rights and options as they relate to immigration detention, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Obama ends Secure Communities program as part of immigration action," Kate Linthicum, Nov. 21, 2014

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