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Advocacy groups vow not to back down on Secure Communities in Arlington

I reported earlier that Arlington, Va., is giving up on its efforts to opt out of Secure Communities, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that allows ICE to check immigration status using fingerprints collected for criminal background checks. After meeting with ICE officials on Friday, Arlington’s county manager released a memo saying the county did not have the option of being removed from the program.

But opponents of Secure Communities said they are not done pushing back against the program, which they say lessens overall safety by making immigrants fearful of police.

“We’re not giving up,” Lucero Beebe-Giudice, a spokeswoman for Tenants and Workers United, told TWI. “We continue to believe there’s a way to opt out. They’re trying to take the wind out of our sails, but we think that there’s a way to opt out.”

Tenants and Workers United is part of a larger coalition of immigrant rights groups that are fighting the spread of Secure Communities, which the Obama administration plans to extend nationwide by 2013. ICE officials listed steps for communities to be removed from the program, but later said opting out is impossible because fingerprints are shared directly between the FBI, which receives them for criminal background checks, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigrant rights groups are trying to get more information about the program, the technology that would be needed to filter out results sent to DHS and any policy changes that made the program mandatory. The groups submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in February, then filed again in October to receive documents related to the opt-out process.

Beebe-Giudice said Arlington would continue sending fingerprints to the FBI for criminal background checks even though they will be forwarded to ICE, but could change its actions on Secure Communities based on information that comes out of the FOIA request.

“The county is not going to stop doing whatever their regular process is,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to continue to pursue this issue.”

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