Patrick/Murray reverse course (again!) on Secure Communities

Remember the Secure Communities Program?  If you don’t, read this and this for quick background.

Nutshell: Governor Patrick took some well-deserved flak late in the 2010 Governor’s race for his clumsy prevarication on Massachusetts’ failure to join the vast majority of other states in a federal program under which state and local law enforcement officials provide finger print information on violent criminals to federal immigration authorities.  Patrick then made some waves a month or so after winning reelection when he announced, with palpable regret, that the Commonwealth would join the program after all (a decision by the feds to make it mandatory had a little something to do with it).

Well, the Patrick/Murray Administration is reversing course yet again, this time with considerably more clarity and apparent enthusiasm.  State House News Service this afternoon:

The Patrick administration has opted against signing onto the federal Secure Communities initiative, citing a “lack of clarity” and inconsistent implementation of a national program that uses locally gathered fingerprinting information to verify the immigration status of those arrested in Massachusetts.

“The Governor and I are dubious of the Commonwealth taking on the federal role of immigration enforcement. We are even more skeptical of the potential impact that Secure Communities could have on the residents of the Commonwealth,” Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan wrote in a letter dated Friday to Acting Secure Communities Director Marc Rapp, informing the Department of Homeland Security that Massachusetts would not sign a memorandum of understanding for participation.

Not on Patrick/Murray’s watch!

The article also provides further background:

After the state’s participation was an issue during his run for governor, Patrick announced last December that the state would sign onto the federal initiative that would share locally gathered fingerprinting information with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to verify the immigration status of those arrested in Massachusetts.

The governor and other public safety officials said they were led to believe by the Obama administration that participation would be mandatory by 2013, and hoped to help shape the implementation of the program…

Republican candidate for governor Charles Baker and independent candidate Tim Cahill last year pressed Patrick to enlist Massachusetts in the federal program, promoting it as an essential public safety tool.

At a Baker campaign press conference, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said, “The fact of the matter is there are criminal aliens allowed to walk the streets of the commonwealth and across our country because Massachusetts is refusing to enter into this memorandum of agreement.”

The governor’s announcement last year met with sharp resistance from the immigrant community, which staged several protests at the State House and warned that the program would lead to racial profiling and a frayed relationship between police officers and those in immigrant communities.

and some pertinent context:

Since the start of the Secure Communities program in 2008, the information sharing capability between local law enforcement agencies and ICE has been expanded to 1,331 jurisdictions in 42 states. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 151,590 convicted criminal aliens have been booked into ICE custody through March 31, 2011, and 77,160 have been deported.

So… what’s the issue?   The Administration’s new objections to Secure Communities are the same as its old ones. They worry that illegal immigrants who aren’t guilty of “serious crimes” will be caught up in its net (though to be so caught, one must first be arrested on suspicion of having committed a serious crime).  It worries that implementation will “deter the reporting of criminal activity” in immigrant communities, and will “deteriorate relationships” between law enforcement and those communities.  I’ve never really understood the second argument… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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