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Opinion

If the Arizona immigration law is ‘misguided,’ so is Obama's criminal-alien roundup program

Obama's ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program appears susceptible to racial profiling and a lack of due process. Citizens need more details.

By Stewart J. Lawrence / June 10, 2010



Washington

President Obama has called Arizona’s new highly controversial crackdown on illegal immigration “misguided.” It’s certainly sparked outrage across the country.

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But the White House has its own suspect illegal immigration enforcement policies, which could benefit a little from such outrage.

In particular, a little-noticed federal enforcement program known as “Secure Communities” deserves greater national attention.

As with Arizona’s recent law, it is susceptible to racial profiling and a lack of due process in the jailing and deportation of illegal aliens. It’s a program that has potentially far-reaching consequences if not properly managed. In the rush to tackle immigration, and in the wrong hands, it could turn into a mass deportation program.

The program is intended to target “criminal aliens” – undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of serious felonies like rape, murder, or even immigrant smuggling, and who are already serving time in jail. It’s not meant to be used in routine law enforcement against persons stopped for traffic violations or accused of lesser crimes who later turn out to be illegal aliens.

But the federal government’s own data suggests that this is exactly what’s occurring. Cooperating jurisdictions simply run the names and fingerprints of all persons being booked after arrest through a federal database of illegal aliens. If there’s a “hit,” the suspect is detained and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for possible deportation.

It doesn’t matter what type of crime the suspect may have committed – even if the suspect turns out to be innocent. ICE statistics compiled last November indicate that just 10 percent of the 110,000 persons identified through Secure Communities were potential felons, but only a small percentage of these turned out to be guilty. In other words, this is not a “criminal alien” program at all. It’s a way of weeding out any illegal alien who is even suspected of a crime.

And what crimes will get a person flagged in the program? Loitering, for example, or “nuisance” crimes like public urination. The “criminal” net is potentially so wide, in fact, that in a worst case scenario thousands of illegal aliens who merely congregate on street corners in search of day jobs could one day be hauled in.

Sounds a lot like racial profiling. The agreements signed between ICE and local authorities under Secure Communities do not include antiprofiling training or even operational guidance – just a one-line statement that federal antidiscrimination laws should be upheld. That’s not enough.

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