Many people who follow immigration issues may be aware of a program managed by Homeland Security called the Secure Communities program. The program requires the FBI to share fingerprints and records of those convicted of crimes with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Indeed, each time an individual is booked into a jail; his or her fingerprints are required to be checked against national databases maintained by the FBI and ICE. The District of Columbia rejected the program a year ago, but a change to immigration law has made the program mandatory.
ICE has drawn significant criticism lately as opponents have said the agency deported close to 200,000 people with no criminal conviction in 2010. This has stoked fears that Secure Communities will be used to target innocent people. Immigration groups are also concerned that the program will make victims of crime reluctant to report the crime to authorities.
As part of the opposition to the program, 50 District of Columbia residents recently staged a gathering outside the building where the mayor and city council have offices. They are urging the mayor to implement a similar policy to that of Cook County in Illinois. Under Cook County’s policy, illegal immigrants are no longer held for 48 hours after an arrest. The group would also like to see enforcement of a 1984 mayoral order that prevents government officials from inquiring about citizenship or residency before providing benefits.
For many immigrants to the United States who are here legally or illegally, it may often seem like they are caught up in a legal limbo. However, they may benefit from consulting with an experienced immigration law attorney who may be able to help with starting a process toward legal residency or citizenship. Many immigrants may also be pleased to know that the attorney-client relationship is confidential. This means any information one divulges regarding their status in the District of Columbia cannot be shared with anyone else without their explicit consent.
Source: The Infozine, “Protesters Challenge Federal Mandate to Check Immigration Status,” Danya P. Hernandez, Oct. 1, 2011