Too Little, Too Late (NYT)

Too Little, Too Late

Published: June 19, 2011

With many local governments and states insisting they want out, the Obama administration says it is working to improve Secure Communities, its troubled data-sharing program that pushes local police to the front lines of immigration enforcement.

New York, Illinois and Massachusetts are among the states that have said they don’t want fingerprints of every person arrested to be run through immigration databases. They say Secure Communities catches too many noncriminals and undermines public safety by making crime witnesses and victims fear the police.

The administration still insists the program is mandatory and will roll out nationwide by 2013. It isn’t budging on its refusal to let localities opt out. On Friday, John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced a grab bag of changes — an implicit acknowledgment of the growing uproar.

He said he was creating an advisory committee to suggest improvements and issuing memos to guide immigration officers and lawyers on using discretion “where appropriate” to make sure the focus is on dangerous criminals rather than on the traffic violators and misdemeanor offenders who end up in the Secure Communities dragnet in disproportionate numbers.

He said his agency would look closely at arrest data for signs of racial profiling and other discriminatory practices and take action where necessary. We welcome the news that ICE lawyers will be freer to drop deportation cases against immigrants who pose no conceivable threat, the very people the administration has long promised, emptily, to put on a path to citizenship.

If Mr. Morton really wants advice from experts, he already has the testimony of police chiefs and sheriffs, leaders of immigrant communities and a growing number of state politicians. They say the best thing that can be done with Secure Communities is to shut it down.