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Secure communities program comes to Washington, D.C.

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With all the talk surrounding immigration issues squarely focused on the Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling, some residents of the District may not have noticed that the Secure Communities program has now taken effect in Washington, D.C. The program expanded into portions of Maryland this past February, bringing the entirety of the state under its reach. Secure Communities had been functioning in other parts of the state for years.

Secure Communities is an information sharing program that gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to data that local law enforcement agencies collect on those they take into custody. Immigration officials then check the immigration status of the arrested individuals. Depending on the crime for which they were arrested, illegal immigrants could face deportation under the program, which has already deported over 49,000 immigrants convicted of felony offenses.

For its part, Washington, D.C. has done its best to resist adopting the rules mandated by the Secure Communities program. Mayor Gray is opposed to the program and issued an order in 2011 that precluded city government from inquiring into an individual's immigration status.

Members of the D.C. Council are attempting to confine the scope of the program within the District's bounds. For example, under proposed legislation only those arrestees who have a violent crime conviction on their record could have a federal hold placed on them lasting in excess of 24 hours.

Although not all crimes automatically result in deportation, any illegal immigrant taken into custody should inquire how the crime could affect their ability to stay in the country.

Source: The Washington Examiner, "Feds to check D.C. jail records for illegal immigrants," Alan Blinder, June 4, 2012.

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