Deportations Speed up with the Secure Communities Initiative

A California man recently went from a bicycle ride in Livermore to a bus trip to Mexico in only a few days, thanks to the Secure Communities program. The Contra Costa Times tells the story of Eduardo Lopez-Reynoso, a Mexican immigrant who was stopped by police in late October after he ran a stop sign on his bicycle. A mere five days later, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dropped him on the far side of the Mexican border.

Secure Communities, a program initiated by the Obama Administration, puts local law enforcement at the forefront in enforcing federal immigration laws. The program allows sharing of biometric and other identifying information between local law enforcement databases and databases maintained by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The program is intended to allow efficient removal of violent criminal immigrants, repeat immigration offenders, and others deemed the “worst of the worst” by the government.

Lopez, as an example of the implementation of the program, reportedly does not fit the general notion of the “worst of the worst.” While he had a history of drug-related arrests, he had never been more than a nuisance to local police. He falls somewhere between the “worst” and the rest of the immigrant population, many of whom may nevertheless get caught up in Secure Communities’ dragnet. Local law enforcement apparently rarely stay involved, or even informed, regarding cases referred to the system. ICE does not offer any breakdown of their arrest and deportation records based on specific criminal convictions. There is therefore no way to know how many immigrants ensnared by this program are truly dangerous criminals and how many are not.

Implementation of Secure Communities in Ohio has been gradual. Counties generally opt in to the program, according to ICE press releases. ICE last announced the new involvement of Ohio law enforcement in June 2011, when it announced that seven Ohio counties had begun participating in the program: Auglaize, Carroll, Columbiana, Erie, Holmes, Medina and Mercer. They join other counties who had already opted in.

As participants in the program, Ohio police and sheriff departments can share fingerprints taken from people charged with crimes and check them against immigration records in databases maintained by both DHS’s US-VISIT program and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services. US-VISIT collects and analyzes biometric data, including fingerprints. It has over 30,000 users in various agencies at all levels of government. In addition to law enforcement, it is used for identity management in all areas of the immigration system. Critics contend that it has too many inaccuracies to be effective in law enforcement or any other kind of information management.

The speed of deportations brought with the help of Secure Communities may also bring up concerns about due process. People in removal proceedings have constitutional rights to a hearing, to confront their accuser, and more. Privacy issues may also play a role, as biometric data is spread over a vast network accessible to people all over the world. The current political climate makes it unlikely that these concerns will be addressed soon, unfortunately.

The United States immigration system is often complicated and confusing. For a free and confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced Ohio immigration visa lawyercontact Gus Shihab online or at (800) 625-3404 today.

More Blog Posts

Guatemalan-Born Ohio Teen Seeks Additional Reprieve from Deportation, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 30, 2011

Obama Administration’s New Policy on “Low Priority” Immigration Offenders Draws Criticism, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 17, 2011<

German-born College Student Who Considers Ohio His Home Gets Another Reprieve from Deportation, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 10, 2011

Photo credit: alvimann from

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