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Secure Communities program expanded in Maryland

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Last fall, we discussed the implementation of the Secure Communities program, which increases federal scrutiny over an arrested person's citizenship status. Although other parts of Maryland have been under the reach of the program for years, federal officials have recently decided that Baltimore and Montgomery County must now adopt the program.

It is a well-worn stereotype that when police arrest a suspect, they take that person's fingerprints for identification. What crime dramas do not often show, however, is that local police send the fingerprints to the FBI for collection in a database. Secure Communities goes one step further and requires the FBI to communicate those records to the Department of Homeland Security, which examines them to discover the arrested person's citizenship status. If Homeland Security spots an immigration issue, they notify ICE.

The program is gradually being put in place across the country and is part of the Obama Administration's increased efforts to pursue illegal immigrants with criminal records. The government hopes to achieve nationwide implementation by next year. Secure Communities has already deported 670 immigrants in Maryland alone with a total of nearly 163,000 deportations in all 50 states.

Baltimore's mayor decried the city's inclusion in the program, which some see as erecting barriers between law enforcement and immigrants. Leaders in immigrant communities oppose the program and are seeking political channels to diminish its effects. They argue that it is over inclusive, citing studies that show only a quarter of those deported under the program in Maryland were felons. The others were guilty of a misdemeanor offense or were deported for simply exceeding the time limit on their visa.

The program risks dividing immigrant families who are living in the United States. An experienced immigration attorney can help those facing deportation and other immigration problems.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Feds to check immigration status of people arrested in city," John Fritze and Julie Scharper, Feb. 21, 2012.

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