Immigration officials will be notified anytime the local or state police do a federal fingerprint check on a suspect who also is wanted for serious immigration violations, under a new system being tested in Boston, reports the New York Times. The automated notification is part of a Department of Homeland Security program that could expand the role local and state police play in immigration enforcement.
To federal officials, it is a natural next step as police forces have hundreds of thousands of officers who routinely come into contact with illegal immigrants, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement has only 6,000 criminal investigators. Some immigration and civil liberties advocates object. “Once the police become viewed as immigration agents, as opposed to simply safety and law enforcement patrols, they will lose the cooperation and trust of a significant portion of the communities they serve,” said Marshall Fitz of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Homeland Security Department records rely on just two fingerprints, instead of 10, and are more subject to error, which could result in someone's being wrongly detained on immigration charges.