ImmigrationBoston threatens to withdraw from Secure Communities

Published 13 July 2011

On Monday Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino announced that he will withdraw the city from the controversial Secure Communities program unless changes are made; Boston was among the first cities in the United States to test the program in 2006, but now Mayor Menino is one of the many growing voices that have taken aim at the Secure Communities program

On Monday Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino announced that he will withdraw the city from the controversial Secure Communities program unless changes are made.

Boston was among the first cities in the United States to test the program in 2006, but now Mayor Menino is one of the many growing voices that have taken aim at the Secure Communities program. Like other local and state officials, Menino wants to see federal immigration officials limit their deportation efforts to immigrants that have been detained on serious crimes.

Under Secure Communities, a detained individual’s fingerprints are automatically scanned and checked against DHS and FBI databases to determine if they have had any prior arrests as well as their immigration status.

According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website, the program “prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.”

Critics of the program, like Boston mayor Menino, say that the majority of people deported under the program have never been convicted of a crime or only committed minor infractions.

In a letter to the Secure Communities task force, Menino argued that the program has created tension between local immigrant and law enforcement officials.

>As operated now, Secure Communities is diminishing trust, an essential part of the neighborhood fabric and a vital public safety tool,’’ Menino wrote.

“Secure Communities must change substantially or be scrapped,’’ he wrote.

Menino’s letter comes as a sharp reversal in policy as just one month ago he and Boston’s police commissioner defended the program when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick refused to participate.

In support of the program, Boston officials said that Secure Communities was helping to fight crime and battle the city’s drug and gun violence. But after ordering police Commissioner Edward Davis to review the program to ensure that it was in fact targeting criminals, Mayor Menino learned that the program was actually hampering police investigations because immigrants were discouraged from reporting crimes or talking to police for fear of deportation.

Menino has requested that DHS officials be more transparent about the criteria that they use to decide whose fingerprints are shared with ICE officials. He added that the program should have a “partition” that separates immigrants charged with serious felonies and those arrested for minor misdemeanors.

If the changes are not implemented, Menino threatened to withdraw Boston from the program.

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