Thursday, December 30, 2010
The program employs fingerprint identification using federal databases, and officials say it will be implemented nationwide by 2013.
The program, called Secure Communities, was started under the George W. Bush administration but has become a priority in the Obama administration's enforcement efforts for illegal immigration. With the help of local law enforcement authorities and jails, the ability to quickly identify illegal immigrants who have committed crimes or are accused of committing them is improved under the program, supporters say.
In Arundel, fingerprints taken at booking will go into a wider Homeland Security database. Potential matches will be identified within hours, said Terry Kokolis, superintendent of the county jail.
When there is a match, immigration officials are notified and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement generally moves to have the person detained by local authorities. After the defendant's court case or incarceration ends, he is held for ICE. At that point, ICE may pick him up and begin deportation proceedings.
Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said Secure Communities appeals to him in part because it is based on fingerprints. "Fingerprints don't lie," he said.
County officials say the reliance on technology reduces the possibility of human error and could cut down on accusations of profiling by law enforcement.
But critics, including Kim Propeack, director of community organizing and political action for Casa de Maryland, say that while the program can help rid communities of violent criminals, it also is flawed and has led immigrants elsewhere — legal and illegal — to think that police are stopping them on another pretext because the officer suspects they are in the country illegally.
They say the program is sweeping up many immigrants whose criminal cases are dropped or who are convicted of minor charges, though Leopold countered that "so-called nuisance crimes become a breeding ground for other crimes."
Immigrant advocates in the county say a program with the potential to increase deportations creates problems of its own, including spending thousands of dollars to deport people who are in the country illegally. Immigrants who are victims of or witnesses to crime may be afraid to come forward as a result of the program, for fear of being deported.
"It's just a chilling factor," said Bob Feldmann, an outreach coordinator with OHLA, the Organization of Hispanic and Latin Americans of Anne Arundel County Inc., an immigrant aid group.
Part of the problem, he said, is that many immigrants — legal or not — live in fear of deportation and don't understand immigration law.
Capt. Randy Jones Sr., commander of special enforcement in the county Police Department, said that a lack of a fingerprint match in a federal database does not necessarily mean the person is in the country illegally, but only that the person's prints are not in the database.
But "that's the beginning of your record. If you provide a different name next time, we have fingerprints to show it," he said. And fingerprints will turn up every photo taken of that person in the government database. "It's going to catch the people that are using multiple aliases," he said.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer consider Employment Authorization Documents evidence that a person is in the country legally. About 20 other federal documents will still be accepted.
The governor acted after a 23-year-old Bolivian national with drunken driving convictions in 2007 and 2008 was involved in a crash that killed a nun and injured two others in her order in Prince William County. Police say Carlos Martinelly Montano was drunk at the time.
Montano had used the form to get a Virginia license even though he faced deportation proceedings, authorities say.
WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., reported Tuesday that a grand jury indicted Montano on a murder charge that could land him in prison for 40 years if he's convicted.
Prince William police chief Charlie Deane last week asked federal authorities to stop issuing employment authorization cards, known as I-766 documents, to immigrants who face deportation. The cards are issued by the Citizenship and Immigration Service arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
An advocate for immigrants said the governor's response was political pandering that ignores what she said was the problem of scant punishment for repeat drunken drivers."The governor should be asking why he (Montano) was released from jail after serving just 20 days instead of the full 364," Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, a Richmond-based lobbyist on behalf of immigrants' rights. Montano had been sentenced to a serve a year on his second DUI conviction.
"The real situation here is we're not enforcing our drunk driving laws," she said.
Montano got his I-766 card, in January 2009 as federal deportation actions were pending. He presented the card to the DMV to establish legal presence in the U.S. But he did not have a Virginia license on Aug. 1 when his car slammed head-on into a car carrying three Benedictine nuns on their way to a retreat.
Sister Denise Mosier was killed in the crash. Sisters Connie Ruth Lupton and Charlotte Lange were critically injured.
"We must ensure that documents accepted as proof of legal presence are reliable," McDonnell, a Republican and a Roman Catholic, said in a news release. "Virginia law is clear in the requirement that an individual be lawfully in the United States to be eligible for an identification card or to have the privilege to drive."
Gastanaga said the federally issued cards are not given to illegal immigrants, and that they are merely records information about the bearer's physical appearance such as height, weight, hair and eye color information.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in August advised police across Virginia that they have the authority to ask about the immigration status of anyone they've stopped or arrested. His advisory opinion, which lacks the legal force of a court ruling, would give Virginia officers many of the same powers police in Arizona have under a new law there intended to crack down on illegal immigration.
The American Civil Liberties Union urged police to ignore Cuccinelli's guidance, saying lacks any legal foundation and conjures constitutional conflicts.