How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

L.A. votes to support a Secure Communities opt-out

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Los Angeles city leaders have become the latest elected officials to shun the federal Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration authorities.

The City Council voted 11-1 today to support a California bill that would allow the state to renegotiate its contract with the Homeland Security department, letting cities and counties opt out of the program. The bill recently cleared the state Assembly and goes to the Senate next.

The vote on the Los Angeles resolution is more symbolic than anything, as at present, individual jurisdictions can't choose not to participate, with the agreements between the federal government and the states. In recent weeks and days, the governors of Illinois, New York and most recently Massachusetts have announced plans to withdraw their states from Secure Communities, although federal officials have said it's not so easily done.


LAPD chief on Secure Communities: 'It tends to cause a divide'

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles' chief of police is less than gung-ho about a controversial immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities, a federal fingerprint-sharing program that has drawn complaints from some law enforcement and state officials, while it is embraced by others.

During a radio interview yesterday with KPCC's Patt Morrison, the Los Angeles Police Department's Chief Charlie Beck expressed some of the same concerns that more vocal critics of the program have voiced, among them Sheriff Michael Hennessey of San Francisco. An excerpt from the Beck interview:

The thing that the San Francisco sheriff worries about, and that many people in Los Angeles worry about, is that it causes a huge divide between a large portion of our population. Because whether people agree with it or not, a large portion of L.A.'s population are immigrants, and many of them are undocumented.

So it tends to cause a divide there where there’s a lack of trust, a lack of reporting, a lack of cooperation with police. You know, I cannot prosecute crimes without witnesses...


Opting out of Secure Communities? Not so fast, ICE official says

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The California Assembly voted last week to approve a bill that seeks to extricate the state from Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program in which the fingerprints of people who land in local jails are checked against a database of immigration records.

The bill, which now moves to the state Senate, would allow California to renegotiate its contract with the Department of Homeland Security, letting local jurisdictions opt out of what is now a mandatory program or the state to opt out altogether.

But can this really happen? Not so fast, says a top Homeland Security official interviewed by KPCC's Kitty Felde. From a story today:

John Morton, director of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says local jurisdictions don’t have the power to pick and choose.

"An individual state can’t come to the federal government and say, 'We don’t want the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to share information or seek to prevent that information sharing.' That is between federal departments."

The bill still needs approval from the state Senate, and from Gov. Jerry Brown, who supported Secure Communities when he was California’s attorney general.


Will California opt out of Secure Communities, and can it?

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The California Assembly passed a bill 43-22 today that challenges the embattled federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities. If the bill becomes law, it would allow the state to renegotiate its contract with the Homeland Security department, allowing local jurisdictions to opt out of what is now a mandatory fingerprint-sharing program. The state could choose to opt out altogether as well.

The bill, which now goes on to the senate, has been dubbed the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act, or “TRUST Act.”

The text of the California bill was posted on Multi-American late last month. Shortly afterward, the governor of Illinois announced plans to withdraw the state from the program. His decision was challenged by Department of Homeland Security officials, who said the department would not allow Illinois law enforcement to opt out of sharing information with immigration authorities.


Understanding the escalating controversy over Secure Communities

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A detainee waits to be processed at an immigrant detention facility Arizona. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A heated controversy over the federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities has been brewing since last year, when several local jurisdictions around the country tried to opt out of the program, only to learn they couldn't. But in the past month, it has escalated to a boiling point.

Since then, a series of internal emails released revealed varying degrees of miscommunication between federal immigration officials and state officials over the mandatory nature of the fingerprint-sharing program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jail systems to be checked against the Homeland Security department’s immigration records. The emails irked some elected officials, including Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, who has called for an investigation.