Colorado getting ICE fingerprint plan
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A federal program aimed at catching illegal immigrants by using their fingerprints when they’re booked in jails is coming to Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to announce Tuesday, despite opposition from advocacy groups who say the initiative is flawed.
Ritter, who’s leaves office Jan. 11, decided to accept the rapidly expanding Secure Communities program but with some modifications, according to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak before the announcement.
Ritter’s spokesman didn’t immediately return a call and an e-mail seeking comment.
The program run by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses fingerprints during jail bookings to determine a person’s immigration status and whether they’ve been arrested before. The program works by referencing the prints against records from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security immigration.
The program is in place in 891 jurisdictions in 35 states, and ICE has said it hopes to have it at every jail by 2013. Some officials around the country have publicly denounced the program, however, saying it could lead to racial profiling and violates civil rights. But ICE has maintained that the majority of the jurisdictions have welcomed the program and are grateful to have a resource to fight illegal immigration at little or no additional cost to local communities.
ICE and supporters of the program have also denied that racial profiling exists because everyone who is arrested is screened.
In California, the Berkeley City Council last month adopted a resolution asking to opt out of the program, said Amy Ferrer, associate director with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Ferrer said Santa Clara also adopted an opt-out resolution and so has San Francisco, which got the program in the summer despite opposition from the sheriff. The Washington, D.C., City Council also blocked Secure Communities from being implemented.
“The fingerprints that are shared with ICE can end up causing people to be put in deportation proceedings or to be detained when they haven’t actually committed a crime,” Ferrer said, adding that domestic violence victims are at risk.
She said people can end up in deportation proceedings without being convicted of a crime, because the fingerprints are checked at the point of arrest. Groups have also said the program will make immigrants reluctant to report crimes.
Colorado officials became interested in Secure Communities after an illegal immigrant from Guatemala with a long criminal record was accused of causing a car crash at a suburban Denver ice cream shop that killed two women in a truck and a 3-year-old in the store. Authorities said Francis M. Hernandez had stayed off ICE’s radar because he conned police with 12 aliases and two different dates of birth. A task-force assembled after the crash recommended Secure Communities as a solution in January 2009.
Since then, dozens of groups have given Ritter feedback on how to implement the program, including advice to reject the program altogether. Denver City Council members, state lawmakers, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, and the Mexican consulate in Denver all sent letters expressing concern about the program, as did the Colorado Bar Association, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.
It wasn’t immediately known what the modifications to the program are, but Colorado groups opposing Secure Communities previously said they wanted domestic violence victims to be protected, and they want a reporting requirement in place so ICE can track what happens to everyone who is screened and make sure the program is working without racial profiling.
In an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press in August, Ritter’s deputy counsel, Michael Shea, said the proposed agreement between Colorado and ICE “would be unique to Colorado, and it would provide a mechanism for determining how the program is working.”
Ritter’s spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said at the time that the state was working to make modifications to the program based on suggestions from different groups.
“I think it’s fair to say that we recognized very early on that there were going to be a few things that we would want to modify,” Dreyer said in August.
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