America

Illinois Backs Out Of Federal Immigration Program

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Gov. Pat Quinn said Illinois would stop participating in a federal program that requires authorities to run the fingerprints of anyone arrested through a federal immigration database.

The program, called Secure Communities, is in effect in more than 1,000 jurisdictions in 40 states. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to rollout the program nationwide by 2013.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Quinn withdrew the state from the program because he had concerns that it was veering from its stated mission to deport convicted criminals:

Nearly a third of all illegal immigrants deported out of Illinois under the program have never been convicted of any crime, the letter stated, citing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures. Quinn's office suspended the state's role in the program in November amid concerns about its effectiveness.

"During the suspension, we voiced our concerns to ICE and asked them to prove that Secure Communities can and will be implemented as agreed to," the governor's office said in a statement. "After review, we were not satisfied and determined that ICE's ongoing implementation of Secure Communities is flawed."

One key thing to remember is that when a person comes into the country illegally, they are guilty of a civil infraction, not a criminal one. According to the Immigration Policy Center, one common objection to the program is that if local officers are seen as immigration officials, they'll lose the trust of their community and would make their jobs harder.

The program, however, has been popular among those who seek tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

The New York Times reported another interesting angle in March: Whether the federal government can force local jurisdictions to participate in the program is up for debate.

Chicago, Cook County and ICE were already getting ready to face off on the question, before Quinn's letter today.

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