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NYT on Secure Communities: Time for President and Sec. Napolitano “To Try Something Else”

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deval obama janetYesterday, we reported that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick rejected the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program. Today, The New York Times used that news as the basis for another very strong editorial urging a new direction for “President Obama’s misconceived and failing immigration dragnet.”

This is a failure of decency and good sense. It merely punishes and does nothing to actually come to grips with the problem of illegal immigration. Resistance has mostly been heard at the ground level, from immigrants and advocates who say families are being split apart, workers frightened and exploited, the American dream dishonored. So it’s good to hear powerful Democrats — Mr. Obama’s friends and allies from large states — telling him that with Secure Communities he has gone way overboard.

What these states’ actions mean, practically speaking, is unclear. States like New York signed contracts with the Department of Homeland Security to enter Secure Communities, and now the administration insists that they must participate. If they send suspects’ fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal checks — as states must and will continue to do routinely — then the F.B.I. will share that data with the Department of Homeland Security. There is no way to opt out.

We’ll see about that. The idea that the federal government can commandeer states’ resources for its enforcement schemes seems ripe for legal challenge. And it’s wrong to make state and local police departments the gatekeepers of immigration enforcement. It should not be up to local cops to drive federal policy by deciding which neighborhoods and people are the focus of their crackdowns.

We welcome the votes of no-confidence in Secure Communities. The message is clear and growing louder: Mr. Obama and the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, need to try something else. That something else is real immigration reform that combines a path to legality with necessary measures to secure our borders and deport real criminals who are here illegally.

We welcome these developments on Secure Communities too. It is time to try something else.