California Attorney General Kamala Harris told local law enforcement agencies that they were not obligated to comply with a federal program whose stated goal is to deport illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes, the Los Angeles Times reports. It was Harris’ first public assessment of Secure Communities. Under the program launched in 2008, all arrestees’ fingerprints are sent to immigration officials, who may ask police and sheriff’s departments to hold suspects for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release so they can be transferred to federal custody.
Although the intent may have been to improve public safety, Harris said that a review of data from March through June showed that 28 percent of those targeted for deportation in California as a result were not criminals. Those numbers, she noted, had changed little since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement year earlier pledged to reform the program to focus on the most serious offenders. “Secure Communities has not held up to what it aspired to be,” Harris said. The law enforcement bulletin she issued yesterday stated that “immigration detainer requests are not mandatory, and each agency may make its own decision” about whether to honor them.