Immigration Dept. To Look For Bias In Secure Communities Program

Remember the deportation program that Nancy Pelosi said was a waste of taxpayers' money? The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced they'll start screening for signs of bias after several states opted out of Secure Communities, saying people were being deported for minor violations like traffic tickets instead of serious crimes:

On Friday, federal officials announced that ICE would review localities in Secure Communities once every quarter for signs of bias. “Jurisdictions are different in terms of a lot of things,” Margo Schlanger, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s chief civil rights officer, told reporters. “They’re different in terms of who lives there, they’re different in terms of the criminal activity that goes on there.”

“Of course, ICE does not want to be a conduit for discrimination,” Schlanger said. “We need to do good and solid oversight to make sure that we are not.”

The reviews are one of several tweaks to Secure Communities that ICE announced last week in response to escalating criticism, as well as an upcoming review of the program by the agency’s inspector general. ICE Director John Norton also said he is considering a change related to deportation of immigrants arrested for traffic offenses. Currently, ICE can go after the suspects even before their traffic charges are heard, but the change under consideration would start deportation proceedings only after they were convicted.

Nearly three quarters of all foreigners living in the United States live in places where Secure Communities has been rolled out. But it is a program still very much in startup mode. Almost half of the 1,200 police agencies it covers joined since October.

There is a lot more ground to cover. Many states have only a few jurisdictions signed up. For example, three of Pennsylvania’s biggest counties are on board, but a spokesman for the State Police says ICE has not asked the state agency to join. The first counties in Washington State will go online very soon, but, there, the State Patrol decided it will defer to local sheriffs on whether they want to participate. “We have our hands full enforcing state law,” says state patrol spokesman Bob Calkins. “We’re not in any hurry to take on a new role that is properly the work of a federal agency.”


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