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Secure Communities Nets 47,000 Illegal Immigrants

When the Justice Department sued Arizona over the state’s SB 1070 immigration law, one of its key arguments was that federal authorities should be in charge of enforcing immigration law so they could target the most dangerous illegal immigrants first. In reality, though, the line between federal and local law immigration enforcement is already blurred through programs such as Secure Communities, which requires local law enforcement to share fingerprints with federal immigration officials.

Today, The Associated Press had more details about the 47,000 people who have been removed or deported from the U.S. through the program:

About one-quarter of those kicked out of the country did not have criminal records, according to government data obtained by immigration advocacy groups that have filed a lawsuit. The groups plan to release the data Tuesday and provided early copies to The Associated Press. [...]

“ICE has pulled a bait and switch, with local law enforcement spending more time and resources facilitating the deportations of bus boys and gardeners than murderers and rapists and at considerable cost to local community policing strategies, making us all less safe,” said Peter Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.

A spokesman for ICE told the AP the non-criminals who were deported may have committed other offenses, such as crossing the border illegally or refusing to show up for deportation hearings.

Still, priorities are important, especially when immigration authorities have said they lack the resources to house the illegal immigrants they detain — or to deport the entire illegal immigrant population in the U.S. (A July 30 ICE internal memo estimated the agency can deport about 400,000 illegal immigrants per year, less than four percent of the illegal immigrant population already in the country.) The Obama administration hopes to expand Secure Communities nationwide by 2013, and has already brought in sanctuary cities such as San Francisco.

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