How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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.

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Emails illustrate 'disarray,' confusion over Secure Communities immigration program

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Hundreds of emails from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released yesterday illustrate the confusion over Secure Communities, a federal fingerprint sharing program whose involuntary nature has frustrated local law enforcement in some jurisdictions, including in California.

The emails include internal communication between ICE officials and with state officials in California. They were obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation by legal advocacy groups that include Los Angeles' National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law's Immigration Justice Clinic. The groups have described the content of the emails as attempts to deliberately mislead California officials about the nature of the program, initiated in 2008, which many at first believed to be voluntary.

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