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Communities begin to meet with immigration officials to discuss enforcement program opt-out

Today will be the first in a series of meetings between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and officials in communities that want to opt out of the Secure Communities enforcement program. Officials from Arlington, Va., will meet with ICE and representatives from the state of Virginia today to figure out the future of the fingerprint-sharing program in the city.

It will be interesting to hear what happens, mostly because it’s unclear at this point whether it’s actually possible to opt out. Although ICE previously stated the program was voluntary — even posting documents explaining how communities could opt out that later disappeared – it is actually based on an agreement between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. ICE officials have confirmed that states agree to give fingerprints collected during arrests to the FBI for criminal background checks. The FBI then shares these prints with DHS to check for immigration status.

Despite being told that no opt-out is possible, several communities are going forward with the opt-out process laid out by ICE. The first step is a meeting with ICE and state representatives, which Arlington will begin today. San Francisco and Santa Clara, Calif., will meet with ICE officials early next week for similar meetings on Secure Communities.

Opponents of the program say it puts an unfair cost on local police and threatens immigrant trust in law enforcement. They argue ICE will have to find a way to make an opt-out possible, and have demanded information from ICE on how communities can be removed from the program.

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