DENVER POST EDITORIAL:
We hope Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pledge to evaluate the operation of a federal immigration program in Colorado isn’t the opening note of a song that other Democratic governors have begun to sing.
It would be very disappointing if Hickenlooper’s efforts to get the “real facts” on Secure Communities were to turn into a declaration that the state wouldn’t participate, as has been the case recently in Massachusetts, Illinois and New York.
It’s not a state’s choice whether the federal government enforces immigration laws, and the governors who have declared they are “opting out” of the program are pandering to vocal constituencies and not considering the big picture.
Secure Communities, which at its core is an information-sharing partnership between the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is an important precursor to comprehensive immigration reform.
If the public is reasonably assured the government is doing what is necessary to deport criminals in this country illegally, they will be far more likely to support an overhaul that creates a path to legal status for law-abiding, productive people.
The same goes for stricter border enforcement and crackdowns on employers that routinely hire illegal immigrants.
Critics of Secure Communities say the government has, in practice, deported too many people whose only transgression is being in the country illegally.
First of all, to even get caught up in the Secure Communities system, one has to be arrested and fingerprinted.
Meanwhile, most of the ire stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the way Secure Communities works. When people are arrested and booked in a jail, local and state authorities routinely send those fingerprints to the FBI to check for a criminal record.
With Secure Communities, the FBI then sends those fingerprints to ICE, and that agency checks immigration status and decides whether to take further enforcement actions.
The only way a state could opt out would be by refusing to do a full criminal background check on those arrested, a dangerously impractical tack.
Another popular criticism of Secure Communities is that it encourages racial profiling. This is a stretch, since the arrests are for every imaginable offense. But if such profiling exists, then you have a problem with local police that needs to be addressed quite separate from Secure Communities.
We don’t object to Gov. Hickenlooper taking a closer look at the operation of Secure Communities in Colorado. However, we hope this isn’t a harbinger of a misguided attempt to put up a roadblock to federal enforcement of federal immigration laws.