Even as federal immigration officials were telling Arlington County, Va., San Francisco, and other jurisdictions that they could not opt out of a controversial immigration enforcement program, they were telling other municipalities that they could, say Department of Homeland Security documents reported by the Washington Post. The documents, released as a result of a lawsuit by opponents of the program, show an agency at odds over how to handle criticism of Secure Communities, the Obama administration’s signature immigration enforcement program, without running afoul of constitutional limits on what the federal government can demand of local jurisdictions.
The program sends fingerprints gathered by local law enforcement agencies to the FBI and then through a federal immigration database to identify undocumented immigrants. About 1,049 places in 39 states participate. About 59,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported via Secure Communities, including 21,000 convicted of murder, rape, and other violent crimes. The program has come under fire from some local officials because of worries that Secure Communities could discourage immigrants from reporting crimes.