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Report: Immigration program distracts police, destroys trust

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Secure Communities involves local police in federal immigration enforcement
  • Local agencies run fingerprints through an immigration database
  • A report concludes the program is "fundamentally flawed" and "beyond repair"
  • Several states have announced they are withdrawing from the program

(CNN) -- Local leaders across the country were presented Tuesday with the results of a report that calls for the end of a controversial Department of Homeland Security program involving local officials in immigration enforcement.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, known as Secure Communities, seeks to find unauthorized immigrants who have criminal records and deport them. According to ICE, the program is a "simple and common sense" way to carry out its agency's priorities, which include the removal of those who pose a threat to the public or are repeat immigration offenders.

But the report, written by a coalition of community organizations under the umbrella of the National Community Advisory Committee, found that a large number of immigrants being deported were not criminals and that it distracts from local police work.

In more than half a dozen cities Tuesday, groups of activists -- ranging from a handful to dozens -- presented the report to local leaders in an effort to get the federal government to drop the program.

Under the program, law enforcement agencies run the fingerprints of people they arrest through immigration databases, aiming to find illegal immigrants.

Critics have said it results in the deportations of immigrants who are in the United States illegally but have no criminal arrest records.

But federal officials have praised the program, arguing that it allows authorities to catch criminals who could fall through the cracks.

Critics of Secure Communities -- including several state governors -- have argued that is not the case.

In June New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said his state was pulling out of the program because of concerns about "its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York." Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick followed suit several days later. And Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also has said his state was withdrawing from the program.

Activists in Boston, Oakland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Phoenix and other cities gathered to present copies of the report criticizing Secure Communities Tuesday.

The report concludes that Secure Communities "is a fundamentally flawed program that is beyond repair."

B. Loewe, spokesman for National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one of the groups behind the report, said that it is the most sweeping view of the program.

It found that the program distracts police, diverts their resources and destroys trust with immigrant communities.

"The only way forward is to end this program," he said.

In an August 2 report, the Department of Homeland Security said Secure Communities was active in more than 1,500 jurisdictions across the country.