Mixed Reaction Over Federal Deportation Program in Montgomery

Beginning in September, Montgomery County is expected to start participating in a federal deportation program. Known as the Secure Communities program, fingerprints of individuals brought to county jails are scanned and stored in a database that are later sent to the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If it is determined that an individual is in the country illegally, they are turned over to ICE officials and face possible deportation.   Opinions vary throughout the State on whether the program adds additional stress to the police force and encourages racial profiling. The Gazette reports:

Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said she has drafted a resolution opposing the Secure Communities program, which she and leaders in Montgomery’s minority community say could alienate immigrants and lead to more crime.

“The problem with this initiative in other jurisdictions is that it has led to real concerns with racial profiling and increased mistrust in the community overall,” Navarro said.

Navarro said she was shocked to learn last week that Montgomery County — where a third of the state’s Hispanic population lives — was expecting to implement the federal program.

Since its implementation in Maryland in October 2008, Secure Communities has been responsible for the deportation of 293 illegal immigrants, as of March 31, he said.

The bulk of those — 223 — came from Prince George’s County; however, 145 people, or 65 percent, had no criminal record, and the reasons they were brought to jail were too minor for the county to pursue, Feinstein said.

“Secure Communities has created a crisis in Prince George’s County, where it was first activated,” said Gustavo Andrade, senior manager for organizing with advocacy group Casa of Maryland. “We would have hoped for much stronger leadership from Montgomery County in dealing with this crisis.”

Casa is calling for a moratorium on adoption of the program or its abandonment, he said.

However, law enforcement officials in Montgomery County say Secure Communities is similar to its current procedures.

Officers provide weekly reports of convicted violent offenders and people involved in gun-related offenses to the federal government for potential flagging, as well as keep a database of foreign-born detainees at the county jail, said Patrick K. Lacefield, a county spokesman.

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