Illinois, Defying DHS, Demands to Be Let out of Secure Communities

[Source – Colorlines]

Illinois doesn’t want its police officers acting as immigration agents for the federal government, and the fight between the state and the Department of Homeland Security is heating up quickly.

The Huffington Post reports that DHS officials today said Illinois’ participation in Secure Communities is mandatory. The announcement comes two days after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that his state would no longer be participating in the federal government’s fingerprint-sharing immigration enforcement program.

This afternoon the Illinois House also passed the Smart Enforcement Act by a wide, bipartisan margin. The bill would allow counties to choose whether or not they want to participate in Secure Communities and offer a cost analysis of the program’s impact to local law enforcement. Additionally, it would stipulate that localities could only use the program to identify and deport people who were actually convicted of crimes.

Secure Communities is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s deportation agenda. More than 72,000 people were deported last year as a result of the federal program, which allows the Department of Homeland Security to peer into the databases of anyone who’s booked in a participating locality’s jails. People’s fingerprints are sent on to the federal government, whether or not they’re charged or even found guilty of any crime. In Illinois, 78 percent of people fell in this category, according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

DHS, which once called the program voluntary, has since decided the program is not optional after a series of contradictory public statements and communications to states that tried to exercise their right to opt out. California Rep. Zoe Lofgren called for an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and DHS Director John Morton for what she called out-right deception about the program’s implementation.

California’s got its own version of the Smart Enforcement Act, called the TRUST Act, which is making its way through the state’s legislature as well.