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Villaraigosa asks California to halt role in Secure Communities

December 15, 2011 | 10:36 am

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles TimesMayor Antonio Villaraigosa has written to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to suspend California's participation in the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.

In his letter, written this month, Villaraigosa said issues with the program “have been and remain significant.”

Under Secure Communities, which began in 2008, fingerprints collected by state and local police are shared with immigration authorities to identify and deport tens of thousands of people each year.

The program was initially promoted as a way to target serious convicts for deportation, but it has come under fire because a large percentage of immigrants caught up in the program were never convicted of a crime or are low-level offenders. The American Civil Liberties Union this week pointed to four U.S. citizens who it said were illegally detained as a result of Los Angeles County participation in the program.

“First, community members with no criminal background are being deported and separated from their family,” Villaraigosa wrote. “Second, ICE could have been more forthcoming with local communities in the rollout and implementation of this program.”

States, including Illinois and New York, attempted this year to suspend the Secure Communities program, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have said it is a federal information sharing program and that states cannot withdraw.

Because of this, some local jurisdictions, including Santa Clara County and Cook County, Ill., have chosen to limit cooperation with immigration holds depending on a person’s criminal background. On Wednesday, the ACLU and other immigrant rights and civil liberties groups called on local leaders to follow their lead.

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-- Paloma Esquivel

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants California Gov. Jerry Brown to suspend the state's participation in the federal Secure Communities program. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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