Growing Confusion About "Secure Communities"

By Ruxandra Guidi
November 26, 2010

Photo courtesy of ICE
Next year, the biometrics technology used by the "Secure Communities" program will be available nationwide.

SAN DIEGO -- Since this capability was first activated in 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says that that biometric information sharing has helped the agency identify and remove more than 50,600 convicted criminal aliens from the United States.

As of this month, 788 counties in 34 states are signed up to Secure Communities. By 2013, the Homeland Security Department plans to have it nationwide.

But many states are interested in opting out of the program. And questions remain about whether the evidence collaboration between local and federal law enforcement is deporting the right people.

"The numbers that have been released about this program contain many individuals who are identified and ultimately removed as a result of Secure Communities," says Brittney Nystrom, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs for the Washington-based National Immigration Forum. "But many of them have no conviction whatsoever or have minor convictions."

Minor convictions might include low level property crimes, or even traffic and immigration related offenses.

Sixty-six percent of California counties are signed up with Secure Communities. All counties in Arizona are already in the program.