The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer require a governor’s signature before it implements a controversial program that allows states to share information about illegal immigrants with criminal records — which is often used to deport them.
The ICE told states last Friday that it would be expanding the Secure Communities program beginning in 2013 to include those states that had previously opposed it, because getting the state’s permission was not “legally necessary.”
The program gives federal authorities access to each state’s fingerprint database for anyone arrested and booked in the state. If someone is found to be in the country illegally, they can be deported.
John Morton, the director of the ICE, said that local prisons already share fingerprints with the FBI to get background checks and other information about arrests, and that the FBI can share that information with whatever other agency it chooses without the state’s consent.
The ACLU told USA Today that this argument is based on an interpretation of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, a law was passed after September 11 in order to get information about potential terrorists living in or attempting to enter the United States.
The Wall Street Journal reported in May that states like New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California have opposed the program because thousands of people — around 29,000 since 2008, according to the WSJ — have been deported who haven’t had criminal records. There are also some concerns that the program will discourage illegal immigrants from reporting crimes.
A spokesman for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) told the Boston Globe that he would continue to oppose the program: “The governor has made his concerns about the program very clear … and he is going to continue to express those concerns.’