After meeting with immigration enforcement officials, the county of Arlington, Va., is giving up on its push to remove itself from Secure Communities, a program that shares fingerprints collected for criminal background checks with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Arlington was one of three counties where officials said they would continue to try to opt out of the program — even after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano confirmed involvement is mandatory.
ICE officials previously laid out steps for opting out, which began with meetings like the one Arlington had with ICE representatives on Friday. But at the meeting, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said she was informed the county cannot be removed from Secure Communities because the state of Virginia agreed to participate in the program.
“ICE stated clearly — and with finality — that local activated communities do have the option of withholding information from the program, although communities can opt not to learn the results of immigration queries,” Donnellan wrote in a memo to the county board after Friday’s meeting.
The county board voted unanimously in September to opt out of the program due to concerns about how it would impact trust in the police. Opponents of the program say it nets too many non-criminal illegal immigrants and deters undocumented people from reaching out to police if they are victims of or witnesses to crime.
Officials in San Francisco and Santa Clara, Calif., are also trying to move forward with removal from the program, but it seems unlikely they will have better luck. Their meetings with ICE will take place early this week.
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