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Secure Communities: Get the Facts

FACT: ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts to identify and remove criminal aliens and others who pose a potential threat to public safety.
Under this administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has prioritized the removal of aliens who are in the country illegally who have also broken criminal laws.

One important tool that ICE relies upon to advance this priority is Secure Communities, which uses an already-existing federal information-sharing partnership to identify and remove aliens who pose a threat to public safety. Through Aug. 31, 2012, more than 166,000 immigrants convicted of crimes, were removed from the United States after identification through Secure Communities. Of the more than 166,000, more than 61,000 immigrants were convicted of aggravated felony (level 1) offenses, including murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children.

The National Sheriffs' Association and Major County Sheriffs' Association have issued formal statements in support of Secure Communities.

FACT: Under Secure Communities, state and local law enforcement officers continue enforcing their state or local law in the same manner in which they always have.
Under Secure Communities, state and local law enforcement officers are not deputized, do not enforce immigration law, and are not tasked with any additional responsibilities. In fact, state and local law enforcement officers are asked to enforce the law in exactly the same manner as they did before the federal information partnership used by Secure Communities was activated in their jurisdiction. With Secure Communities, only federal officers make immigration enforcement decisions, and they do so only after a completely independent decision by state and local law enforcement to arrest an individual for a criminal violation of state law separate and apart from any violations of immigration law.

FACT: Secure Communities was designed to reduce the potential for racial profiling.
Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of every single individual arrested and booked into custody, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, are checked against immigration records – reducing the risk of discrimination or racial profiling. ICE and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) are implementing additional procedures to monitor state and local conduct and protect the program from potential abuses. These safeguards include strengthening protections for victims of abuse or other crimes; a formal complaint process for those who feel they have been the targets of ethnic discrimination; an investigative process involving CRCL with referral to the Department of Justice; and analysis by a statistician to identify any data irregularities that could indicate misconduct in particular jurisdictions so that we can immediately initiate corrective actions.

FACT: Secure Communities is working to protect witnesses and victims of crimes.
As the federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing U.S. immigration laws, ICE works closely with local law enforcement agencies to ensure victims and witnesses of crimes we deal with are properly identified. The vast majority of jurisdictions do not arrest victims or witnesses at the scene of a domestic altercation. At the direction of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, ICE, in consultation with CRCL, has issued a policy addressing possible scenarios where a victim or witness may be identified in Secure Communities, to ensure appropriate discretion is exercised.

FACT: State and local jurisdictions cannot opt out of Secure Communities.
Unfortunately, some of ICE's past public statements led to confusion about whether state and local jurisdictions can opt out of the program.

Secure Communities imposes no new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement. When state and local authorities arrest and book someone into jail for a criminal offense, they routinely submit fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI then automatically shares these fingerprints with ICE to check against immigration databases. If the fingerprint check reveals that an individual is not a U.S. citizen, or is removable from the United States because of their criminal history, ICE takes appropriate enforcement action – prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history and other factors.

The federal government, not the state or local law enforcement agency, determines what immigration enforcement action, if any, is appropriate. Only federal officers make immigration decisions, and they do so only after an individual is arrested for a criminal violation of state law, separate and apart from any violations of immigration law.

A jurisdiction may choose not to receive the identifications that result from processing the fingerprints through DHS's biometric system that are provided to the local ICE field office. In the past, this option has been mischaracterized as a mechanism for a jurisdiction to opt out of the program. In fact, a jurisdiction's decision not to receive this information directly does not affect whether the local ICE field office in that jurisdiction will or will not take enforcement action based on those results.