Deportation Nation: Is it really possible to opt-out of Secure Communities? Part 2

Deportation Nation Is it really possible to opt-out of Secure Communities? Part 2

The Washington Post‘s Shankar Vedantam has a story today titled, “Local jurisdictions find they can’t opt out of federal immigration enforcement program,” in which an anonymous senior ICE official is quoted as saying:

“Secure Communities is not based on state or local cooperation in federal law enforcement. The program’s foundation is information sharing between FBI and ICE. State and local law enforcement agencies are going to continue to fingerprint people and those fingerprints are forwarded to FBI for criminal checks. ICE will take immigration action appropriately.”

The comment comes on the heels of two votes this week – by Arlington County, VA and Santa Clara County, CA – to opt-out of the controversial enforcement program. It could be seen as a blow to what immigrant advocates had welcomed as progress in pushing-back against the program. But some see it as an opportunity for clarifying the opt-out process.

“We’re not taking this anonymous sourced comment as if it were fact,” Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Deportation Nation. “We’re going by what we know is a credible source, and that is the letter from Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano.”

Napolitano confirmed the opt-out process in letter sent Sept. 7 to Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

The anonymous source’s comment to the WaPost follows requests from the county attorneys in Arlington and Santa Clara for details on how to proceed with their opt-out efforts. Immigrant advocates close to the planning for the votes earlier this week say the attorneys had been in contact with ICE during the process, as had the county’s sheriffs and chiefs of police.

“This just contributes to our ongoing frustration with ICE officials and their inability to keep a consistent line,” said Margaret Wang, executive director of Rights Working Group. “They’ve giving different messages to different audiences.”

Politics may be a contributing factor to the mixed messaging. San Fransisco County has put the process on hold until after the Nov. 2 election in which CA Attorney General Jerry Brown – who supports the program – is running for governor. Brown’s office is one of the key participants in the discussion the county must have with ICE in order to grant its request to return to its previous procedure of sharing only arrest data related to high-level charges.

This could put Arlington County at the forefront of efforts to clarify whether it is possible to decline participation in Secure Communities. As Esteban Garces told Deportation Nation, he still expects the county to send ICE its opt-out request letter because “the resolution passed on Wednesday is binding.”