Federal officials will deploy a new system in Colorado designed to accelerate the deportation of illegal immigrants who commit crimes, reports the Denver Post. Colorado police chiefs and sheriffs welcomed the system, which will give them near-instant access to federal immigration records. Pro-immigrant advocates warned that the system could be exploited to harass. The system gives local arresting officers rapid access, via fingerprints, to federal records as detailed as remarks an immigrant might have made to a visa officer at an embassy abroad. This “accelerates the whole removal process. Our goal is to remove individuals as quickly as possible without sacrificing any of the due process that is afforded to them,” said David Venturella, director of the “secure communities” initiative of the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Our old model was to catch people while they were incarcerated or coming out of prisons. (Now) we will catch them at the earliest point in the process so we can save resources – not only law enforcement resources but judge time.” Colorado is one of just a handful of states that will get the system next month.
Deportations of immigrants – criminal and noncriminal – already have doubled since 2005. While authorities say they are targeting immigrants convicted of crimes, the latest federal data show the share of deportees with criminal convictions has decreased. “The problem is that if everybody the police encounter gets finger-printed, then immigrants are going to avoid the police – and we have all the problems that come with that,” said Crystal Williams of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The new system will be useful for targeting criminals, but local police also will have the ability to arrest immigrants “selectively because of how they look,” said Doris Meissner, former chief of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute think tank. “The most important thing with local law enforcement where immigration is concerned is that they are arresting people on suspicion of having committed a crime and then finding out who the person is, rather than the other way around,” Meissner said.