Fingerprinting Plan Will Dramatically Increase Deportations

Friday, May 22, 2009 at 6:00 am
U.S. Border Patrol agent Gabriel Pacheco walks back to his vehicle along the border fence with its concertino wire topping it Monday Nov. 17, 2008 in San Diego. The government is planning to add concertino wire to additional fenced areas.The Border Patrol is completing installation of razor-sharp wires atop a 5-mile stretch of fence, a move that authorities credit for a sharp drop in attacks on agents by rock-, bottle- and brick-wielding assailants from Mexico. Critics say the prison-style fence is a menacing eyesore.  (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

U.S. Border Patrol agent Gabriel Pacheco walks back to his vehicle along the border fence with its concertino wire topping it Monday Nov. 17, 2008 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

The idea of deporting illegal immigrants who are also hardened criminals wouldn’t seem like a controversial idea. So when David Venturella, Executive Director of the Secure Communities Program at Immigration and Customs Enforcement testified to Congress in April, he proudly announced the expansion of his program as part of a “comprehensive effort to increase national security and community safety by identifying, processing, and removing deportable criminal aliens.”

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

But while there’s strong support for deporting dangerous criminals, federal programs such as this one are extending far beyond that goal and detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants for such minor infractions as running a stop sign or carrying an open container of alcohol.

The Secure Communities program, highlighted in a Washington Post story this week, started as a pilot program by President Bush last year. It requires local police to check the immigration status of everyone booked into a local jail. When suspects are fingerprinted, their identifying information is immediately sent to ICE to determine the suspect’s immigration status. (ICE maintains fingerprint data on all individuals who’ve had contact with immigration authorities.) Undocumented immigrants (and even some immigrants who are legal residents) can eventually be deported after their criminal cases are resolved and any sentence is served. If fingerprints from all 14 million suspects booked into local jails each year were screened this way, DHS estimates, about 1.4 million immigrants would be deemed “criminal aliens” and deportable. By contrast, only 117,000 “criminal immigrants” were deported last year.

But the large numbers of immigrants that could be swept up in the program’s snare is causing serious concern among immigrants’ advocates. Although ICE says its goal is to deport the most serious offenders, under the program, identifying information on all suspects arrested for any sort of alleged crimes will be immediately sent to ICE. If the person shows up in an ICE database as an undocumented immigrant, ICE can place a retainer on the individual — meaning they could begin deportation proceedings against him. So an undocumented immigrant wrongly arrested for a traffic violation could be deported under the Secure Communities initiative as easily as could a convicted felon.

Few statistics are available on who is being targeted and deported under the program so far, since it only began in a few communities last October. But since then, the program has been operating in local facilities that have booked 288,000 people, said Richard Rocha, a spokesman for ICE. Of those, almost 3,000 have been “aliens arrested for or convicted of Level 1 offenses,” said Rocha. A Level 1 offense is a crime that carries a sentence of more than a year in prison, such as murder, robbery, rape or drug crimes. “But we’ve lodged detainers on more than 6000,” said Rocha. So about half of the offenders to be deported were either charged with or found guilty of relatively minor offenses. (Rocha said he did not know how many of the 6000 were categorized as Level 2, and how many were Level 3.)

“It’s deceptively benign,” said Joan Friedland, Immigration Policy Director at the National Immigration Law Center, talking about the Secure Communities program. Friedland and others are particularly concerned because other federal programs aimed at seizing and deporting criminal aliens, such as the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws, have led to charges of racial profiling and, according to the General Accountability Office, deportation of undocumented immigrants picked up for such minor infractions as speeding, carrying an open container of alcohol, and urinating in public. Local police also worry, as a report released this week from the Police Foundation points out, that the program deters undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes and cooperating with local investigations.

Particularly brazen sheriffs in communities with high anti-immigrant sentiment — such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff known for marching illegal immigrants past news cameras in leg irons and prison underwear — appear to be taking advantage of the law to try to rid their counties of as many immigrants as possible. Arpaio is now under federal investigation for racial profiling and other potential civil rights violations.

Immigrant advocates worry that the Secure Communities program could cause even more problems because 287(g) at least trains local officials on using the immigration laws and targeting dangerous criminals. The Secure Communities initiative, by contrast, has no safeguards to prevent its abuse by local authorities or to ensure that ICE focuses on deporting felons or other serious or repeat offenders rather than those arrested for minor infractions or as a pretense.

“Because of how other programs have operated you’d think you’d want something in place when this one starts to prevent its abuse,” said Friedland. Yet, as Rocha confirmed, the program has no regulations that govern how ICE or local authorities are supposed to implement it.
“The problem with Secure Communities,” said Marty Rosenbluth, an immigration lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham, North Carolina, “is there’s no way that we know of to be able to track it. There’s no accountability, there’s no reporting procedures, there’s no way to document in any systematic fashion who’s getting into deportation proceedings because of Secure Communities.” Secure Communities is now operating in 12 communities in North Carolina, and 48 nationwide. DHS plans to expand it to all local law enforcement agencies by the end of 2012.

“Under 287(g) in North Carolina, most people deported have been picked up for driving-related offenses. With Secure Communities, since the identification process is when people are booked, not when they’re convicted, our fear is that the same pattern will duplicate itself,” said Rosenbluth.

Indeed, Ivan Ortiz, an ICE spokesman, told the North Carolina News & Observer when asked about the program: “If the person ran a light, then we need to prioritize our work, and we may not be able to send an agent to the local jail to get them,” Ortiz said. “But I guarantee you, we will catch up to them later.”

Rocha, the ICE spokesman in Washington, confirmed that. “The goal of this plan is to identify and remove all criminal aliens in jails and prisons.” he said. Although the focus will first be “on those who present the greatest risk to public safety and national security,” ICE will also deport other lower-level criminals “as resources permit.”

Immigration lawyers worry that in fact, the low-level criminals will be the bulk of the program’s victims. “Based on my personal experience with 287(g),” says Rosenbluth, “I find it very unlikely that if someone is arrested on a driving-related offense, that if ICE has the capacity to pick that person up, that ICE will just leave them.”

The other problem is that due to flawed databases, the program can ensnare people who are in the United States legally, including U.S. citizens. “I had a client who was in a local jail for three months on an immigration detainer,” said Rosenbluth. “It took me three months to prove he was a U.S. citizen and couldn’t be deported,” he said.

Unlike in criminal court, immigrants don’t have the right to have an attorney represent them in immigration proceedings. So if someone is acquitted of a crime but shows up in a database as being in the United States illegally, he can be deported even if he’s here legally, simply because he can’t prove his legal status and doesn’t have the right to a lawyer who can help him.

“Once Secure Communities hits, particularly in rural areas where there there are very few lawyers, it’s going to be devastating,” said Rosenbluth, who said he’s one of only two immigration lawyers in North Carolina devoted full-time to representing immigrants in deportation proceedings. “People are going to get picked up at a traffic stop, fingerprinted and identified as undocumented even though they have a right to be here.”

What’s more, the program can target people who are innocent, too. “It applies when anyone is fingerprinted by a cooperating law enforcement agent,” said Tom Barry, who directs the TransBorder Project of the Americas at the Center for International Policy. “So if someone is booked for driving without a license and indeed they had a license,” if they’re undocumented, it applies to them, too.

Even people who are legal residents in the United States can be eligible for deportation under the program if they’re arrested and in the past had been convicted of a crime. “It may have been two decades ago,” said Barry. “So people who are longstanding members of a community and legal residents can be deported.”

Ultimately, the determination is made by the ICE officer and whether ICE has room to detain the person. “It depends if they have enough beds, rather than if the person is a dangerous criminal,” said Barry.

According to David Venturella, the Secure Communities program director, between October 2008 and the end of February of this year, ICE has processed “more than 117,000 fingerprint submissions under the program, which resulted in the identification of over 12,000 criminal aliens.” Of those, 862 “have been identified as dangerous criminals,” or Level 1 offenders — which includes nonviolent drug crimes. Even if 862 is a significant number of criminals who can now potentially be deported, that’s only seven percent of the total number of immigrants the program has identified as eligible for deportation. What will happen to the 93 percent of aliens — both legal and illegal — who were arrested for minor infractions remains to be seen.



Comment posted May 22, 2009 @ 5:32 am

If I was living illegally in another country, I would do anything it took to keep from being detected. At the top of that list would be not to get arrested or get into trouble with law enforcement…

Does it really matter what these ILLEGAL immigrants are arrested for? They've been law breakers since the day they set foot on US soil, and it seems they have absolutely no reguard for our laws by further breaking the law. Any Illegal immigrant that is caught in any charge (this would include jay walking) should be deported immediately, no questions asked.

» The Washington Independent » Fingerprinting Plan Will Dramatically … » Immigration Lawyers Online
Pingback posted May 22, 2009 @ 6:59 am

[...] info by Daphne Eviatar « K Visas, Immigrant Visas, Inadmissibility, and Waiver: US [...]

Comment posted May 22, 2009 @ 7:13 am

What's a “minor” criminal? Please, now you are defending illegal immigrants who are drunk drivers (that's what having an open container of alcohol in your car usually means.) So they have broken two laws already, but we're supposed to feel sorry for them? This is the kind of attitude toward the law that turned your country of origin into an unlivable hellhole. Now you want to bring this destructive attitude here. Do you ever learn? Just because “your people” are poor or come from poor countries, does not give them a free pass for their criminal behavior. Enough of this Marxist clap-trap, and enough of the racial solidarity. You are not a credit to this country when you prefer a drunk criminal who squeezed under the border five days ago, to the decent American who is your next-door neighbor, just because the criminal is the same color as you are or has a Spanish surname.

Legal Immigrant
Comment posted May 22, 2009 @ 12:07 pm


The US is finally doing more to deport illagal aliens. The media always mentions the exception to the rule to try to portray that programs designed to uphold the law are unfair. What is unfair is that these illegal aliens are breaking the law and the government is pandering for hispanic votes so that they don't enforce the law.

Sometimes I wonder why my family did what the US asked of us in terms of following immigration law. We should have snuck in, started work at a much higher pay and be given amnesty.

Legal Immigrant
Comment posted May 22, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

Illegal aliens have not just broken one law by illegal entry, try:
illegal employment
tax evasion
driving without a license
identify fraud / identity theft

How many laws are we letting illegal aliens break by having them here?

I am a legal immigrant and fiercely American but I have lost respect for the country because the politicians do not have the backbone to enforce their own laws.

Comment posted May 22, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

This initiative is a direct result of lobbying by the for-profit prison industry. The largest operator, Corrections Corporation of America, spends $3 million a year in D.C. alone, lobbying congress. They and their competitors are building prisons all over the nation in an effort to capture this market. They get about $90 per diem for these detainees.

Immigration and Customs enforcement rarely takes any of these inept, corrupt and dangerous operators to task. They only rarely contracts which are then issued to equally incompetent operators.

They are siting these prisons in those depressed rural areas where high turnover employees can be found who are willing to work for slave wages and without union representation. These tend to be the same states where there is little oversight over their operations. Just yesterday, local residents were able to get one of these spec prisons cancelled on an Arizona Indian reservation.

Comment posted May 22, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

These people are often busted for innocuous offenses and are often innocent of the charges brought against them. “Open container” is stupid certainly, but not the same as DUI which is dependent on a provable (through breath or blood test) impairment standard and usually is preceded by a field sobriety test. I've never heard of an inebriated person being charged simply for an open container.

You should also look at what society finds tolerable. How about a guy who was busted for disorderly conduct, petty theft, DUI and who spent a year AWOL from the service? Do you think he should be deported? Well, he was actually “elected” president in 2000 by five justices appointed to the Supreme Court by his father and his family's friends.

John B.
Comment posted May 23, 2009 @ 7:09 am

Ms. Eviatar is incorrect when she states, “…immigrants don’t have the right to have an attorney represent them in immigration proceedings.” Immigrants do have the right to an attorney. They do not have the right to a free attorney.

Comment posted May 23, 2009 @ 8:43 am

This is wonderful…and about time!

I live in Hendersonville, NC. Out of all the places I’ve ever lived, it is as close to heaven as you can imagine. I want it to remain that way. Police should arrest people for “minor crimes” to prserve our way of life. I don’t care who commits a minor crime, they should be held fully accountable. ALL offenses should be included. This includes this includes charges like “Open container.” Our local news reported an illegal who was arrested for an open container of alcohol. He gave a false name, but was properly identified. Why? Because we’ve got one of the best Sheriff’s in the land who got the 287g program.

Oh, I almost forgot. The illegal who gave a false name at the jail was wanted in another state for raping an 10 year old girl. This “minor” charge may have been the only way he could have ever been found.

Comment posted May 24, 2009 @ 9:37 am

“These people” are here illegally. They were not invited to our country. Yes, we have many home-grown criminals but they are Americans. Do you argue that illegal immigrants should have the same rights as American citizens? If so then you are arguing for the destruction of my nation, as a nation. Sorry, no can do.

Comment posted May 24, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

I realize you're probably not smart enough to understand the situation, but I'll try to explain it.

These immigrants typically take jobs that Americans don't want. If you want your motel bed made or your restaurant dishes washed or your roof repaired, or someone to pick your strawberries, then you're going to have to pay a lot more money for what you want.

I pointed out that George Bush has committed at least four deportable offenses so you rant on about someone mainly because, it appears, they have a skin a shade darker than your own and what dangerous criminals they are.

Let me explain a bit more. When ICE raids a slaughterhouse in Greeley Colorado, or in Postville Iowa, and arrests many hundreds of workers, the slaughterhouses shut down. Americans don't want to do the low paying, dangerous, intensively difficult work. Some people may have been undocumented but have worked in those same places for generations. They have paid rent, bought cars, paid taxes without ever getting refunds for overpayment. In Greeley, the city turned into a ghost town overnight when the Swift plant was raided.

Statistics show that undocumented workers are LESS likely to get busted than American citizens because they know that if they are busted, they'll be doing time in jails or prisons and eventually deported. They are very careful, as a class, about their behavior.

I spent time in the hospital seven years ago getting a knee replaced. I noticed that the American born nurses were terrible, but the foreign born ones, probably legal, and all the support staff…the custodians, the nurses' aides, etc., worked real hard and delivered the services patients required. A couple of weeks later, I talked to my doctor, who was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia and mentioned my experience. “That's easy,” he said. “American-born workers don't like to work hard.”

It's true. If hard work is expected of them, they tend to change jobs.

Recently I spoke to a deputy sheriff who worked at a county prison. It was being expanded by one of those for-profit prison outfits whose main task it is to steal money from the taxpayer. They got behind on their construction schedule, so they had to hire a lot more workers to catch up. So the deputy has to clear them to work on the prison grounds. When he checks their IDs, he finds that most of them, who have come to build a prison meant to hold undocumented workers, aren't legal workers themselves.

I don't expect that you'll see the irony in all this. In fact, I don't expect that you know what irony is, or could recognize it. But what the heck, it's worth a try responding to you.

Michigan Mike
Comment posted May 26, 2009 @ 8:42 am

“But while there’s strong support for deporting dangerous criminals, federal programs such as this one are extending far beyond that goal and detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants for such minor infractions as running a stop sign or carrying an open container of alcohol.”

Are you kidding? There is no sliding scale on enforcement. If you are not here legally you should be deported. Period. There is no need to discover any infraction let alone a minor one. If you don't like our immigration laws, change them. Otherwise enforce them. No other industrialized country in the world would accept 25 million illegals with taking serious enforcement action. I guess we should let the social and ecomonic problems rain down on all of us.

Using Local Police to Enforce Immigration Policy Does Not Work | Action Left
Pingback posted May 26, 2009 @ 10:45 am

[...] are no standards for just enforcement or monitoring mechanisms. According to Marty Rosenbluth, an immigration lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice,  The problem with Secure [...]

Comment posted May 28, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

Here is the bottom line on immigration.
IF you come here by following the rules, great.
IF you sneak over the borders, then you are breaking more then a few laws and you need to take yourself back to your own country. It really is as simple as that.

Comment posted June 1, 2009 @ 6:48 am

The sad thing about this, is that it's also taking people like us:…

Comment posted June 2, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

this is ridiculous. this will break up way too many families.

Comment posted June 2, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

let's talk about the people who came here illegaly 500 years ago:

slaughtering over 95% of the natives.
importing black slaves from africa.
raping,killing, and hanging slaves (and that was 50-60 years ago)

immigrants coming here illegaly from the south are coming to WORK.
i have more respect for them than any paleface anyday.

Comment posted June 2, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

they'll go home when you go home first. don't forget your past sins of how this country became the white mans country.

web tasar?m?
Comment posted June 9, 2009 @ 12:59 am

this is ridiculous. this will break up way too many families.good

Comment posted June 10, 2009 @ 10:45 am

I got a ticket twice for an open container of beer and each time I paid a $47 fine. I also got a warrant check and a background check to make sure that I was not on probation or parole.

Comment posted June 10, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

I got a ticket twice for an open container of beer and each time I paid a $47 fine. I also got a warrant check and a background check to make sure that I was not on probation or parole.

Comment posted August 4, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

Number of computers and the Internet with millions from the cable system is composed by a number of sub-networks composed of many of these are based. Without using the internet are just waiting for a clear, even to 152 billion per year has led to kilowat time consuming. Of course, the benefits are not always harmful. According to him, which is aimed at today’s answer to the internet is definitely one of the best inventions will continue.




Hurda Demir

Hurda Metal

Comment posted May 18, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

immigration is a serius problem 

Comment posted May 18, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

internet is sometimes a big problem 

Comment posted May 18, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

sometimes you can not do what you want 

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