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FBI Prevents Local Law Enforcement from Opting Out of Flawed Secure Communities Program

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FingerprintsIf you’re an immigration news fiend like most of us over at America’s Voice, then you might have wondered at some point why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) just won’t let the states that are concerned with the Secure Communities program opt out of participating.  Or, like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, you might wonder why DHS said that states could opt out when, in fact, they can’t. 

Well, it looks as if the FBI has a major part to play in this discussion. Apparently, the Bureau is the reason states are being forced to comply with DHS’ greatly flawed Secure Communities program – and it’s all part of a much larger scheme, with even bigger problems. Front-paged at Huffington Post Politics, Elise Foley breaks the story:

“It looks like the initial driving force for the program had something to do with this technical efficiency for this [Next Generation Initiative] program that they basically want to force states into and they see [Secure Communities] as the stepping stone to do that,” said Bridget Kessler of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School. “With [the Next Generation Initiative] there are, much more than Secure Communities, a whole host of privacy issues.”

While the FBI acknowledged there could be some resistance from local law enforcement agencies, it said they would eventually be forced to comply with the programs — even though DHS originally presented the program to states and localities as optional.

“Ultimately, [law enforcement agency] participation is inevitable because [Secure Communities] is simply the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the … Next Generation Initiative,” according to a briefing guide from the FBI.


The undated FBI briefing documents lay out the agencies’ strategy for dealing with “resistant” jurisdictions. First, the FBI and DHS planned to create a “ring of interoperability” around the jurisdiction, making all of the surrounding localities take part in the program. Next, the agencies could deploy data-sharing at local correctional facilities to detect high-level criminals.

The third step listed, though, betrays that a true “opt-out” of the program will not be allowed.

“Ensure that the jurisdiction understands that non-participation does not equate to non-deployment,” the briefing paper says. “Once interoperability is activated within that jurisdiction, the arrestees fingerprints will in fact be checked … and forwarded to the appropriate” field office.

But the documents also indicate that the federal agencies could change the program to respond to certain criticisms, such as a complaint that the program nets low-level offenders who have committed traffic violations or even those whose charges are dropped.

So finally, the question of whether or not Secure Communities is voluntary has been answered. But this doesn’t change the fact that the program is being used as a tool to deport undocumented immigrants — 61% of whom were never convicted of a crime or were involved in low-level offenses, like traffic violations.  And while the FBI pursues more programs in an effort to invade our privacy, police departments are slotted to do ICE’s dirty work, creating an environment of distrust which makes everyone less safe.