Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton is defending the controversial Secure Communities program, which aimes at covering the entire U.S. by 2013. Authorities have deported nearly 400,000 people in each of the last two years, says the New York Times. Under Secure Communities, fingerprints of anyone booked into jail by the state and local police are sent to the FBI for criminal checks — long a routine practice — and also to the Department of Homeland Security, which records immigration violations. Immigration agents decide whether to detain noncitizens signaled by fingerprint matches.
Morton tells the Times that about 90 percent of those deported under Secure Communities since it was started in 2008 were either convicted criminals or foreigners who had failed to obey a court order to leave the country or who had returned to the U.S. illegally after deportation. Morton said he had created an advisory task force, which went to work in June, to recommend fixes that would lower the numbers of deportations of illegal immigrants who did not have criminal convictions. The American Immigration Lawyers Association issued a report that challenges the federal data. An officer of the group said Homeland Security “is saying one thing but doing another.”