Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time for Framingham to adopt Secure Communties

From the Globe..Boston Police Chief Davis:

The goal of the controversial program, called Secure Communities, is to identify dangerous criminals and turn them over to the US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for eventual deportation.

But Davis said his staff reviewed the list of people caught through the program over the past two years and determined that all of those turned over to immigration officials met the goal of removing gang members and other criminals from the streets.

“We’ve looked into each and every one of the cases, and we’re satisfied that the promise we made to the community still stands,’’ said Davis yesterday in his first interview on the matter. “We’ve made clear that if ICE begins to deport people who are simply being picked up for traffic violations and overstaying their visas, then we’re not going to participate in the program.’’

But others say it is crucial for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to collaborate with one another to fight gangs, crime, and terrorism.

“I think it’s a really good idea,’’ said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter controls on immigration. “I can’t think of any good reason to be opposed to it.’’

Davis said that the Secure Communities program is different from Romney’s program, which sought to have state troopers actively enforce immigration law. He said Boston police do not seek out immigrants and only hand over those whom federal officials request.

Boston piloted the program starting in September 2006, two months before Davis became commissioner, as a way to ensure that they were properly identifying everyone who was taken into custody.

The fledgling program was publicized at that time as a pilot designed to catch suspects wanted for serious immigration violations.

Since then, anyone who is arrested, including native-born Americans, has been checked through criminal and immigration databases. Federal immigration officials are automatically notified if someone is wanted for immigration violations, and it is up to federal officials to pick them up.

In 2008, the pilot morphed into a national program called Secure Communities, which now exists in 617 jurisdictions across the United States.

The Obama administration hopes to take it nationwide by 2013. Boston is the only one enrolled in Massachusetts.

Bruce Chadbourne, director of ICE’s enforcement and removal operations in New England, said Secure Communities follows a national mandate for better coordination among all law enforcement officials.

“It’s basically a one-stop shopping process where you run one check and it’s run through all these databases and you get the information back so you know exactly who you’re dealing with,’’ he said.

Boston is “not expected to enforce immigration laws,’’ he said. “That’s our responsibility. We’re communicating, as all law enforcement — federal, state and local — should be doing. And if we don’t, shame on us.’’

Since the program began in 2008, Boston police have turned over 526 people to ICE, including 180 violent offenders, such as murderers; 77 other people who had committed a felony, such as property crime; and 23 with misdemeanor convictions, including minor drug offenses. Another 246 were arrested for immigration violations. By July 31, a total of 230 had been deported from the United States.

Framingham should strongly consider getting back to this program.