Bronx Pols Want Out Of Federal Immigration Program

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Local elected officials are speaking out against a program that requires law enforcement agencies to share digital fingerprint records of people who are arrested with federal immigration officials, who then check the prints for a person's green card status.

The program, known as “Secure Communities” and run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was originally intended to deport criminals who were determined to be in the country illegally and to focus on “the most dangerous and violent offenders,” according to the ICE's website.

But data shows that the so far, 79 percent of the 102,000 immigrants deported under the program have never been convicted of any crime, according to the Gotham Gazette.

A group of 38 New York legislators, including 13 Bronx Senate and Assembly members, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month imploring him to withdraw the state from the program.

“Our communities are far less safe because of this program,” State Sen. Jose Serrano told the Gazette.

“It will only further fuel what law enforcement officials and immigrant advocacy communities have been saying for years: immigrants will be distrustful of their local law enforcement and will allow for crimes to go unreported or unsolved,” State Sen. Gustavo Rivera said in a press release.

At the moment, counties in 44 percent of the state have been activated in Secure Communities-none yet in New York City.

In early May, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the state would stop participating, though the Department of Homeland Security has said the program is mandatory and that all U.S. counties will have to be enrolled by 2013.

Congressman Jose Serrano, representing the Bronx, also issued a letter urging Cuomo to withdraw, and along with several other member of Congress, called for President Obama to halt the policy entirely until it can be reviewed further.