This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Secure Communities is based on a good idea: systematically intercepting illegal aliens who run afoul of the law. Like a lot of good ideas hatched in Washington, D.C., the devil lies in the execution.
Secure Communities is a partnership – not a happy one, in some cases – of federal, state and local law enforcement. When suspects are booked into jail and their fingerprints are passed on to the FBI, the fingerprint metrics also go to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, allowing for cross-checking between criminal and immigration databases.
An illegal alien who lands in jail can thus be immediately flagged for possible deportation by ICE.
Done right, this catches criminals who aren’t in the country legally – precisely the class of illegal aliens nearly everyone agrees ought to be sent home if not jailed in the United States.
As a way of prioritizing immigration enforcement, this beats random hunts for people who jumped borders or overstayed visas yet are otherwise law-abiding.
Aggressively implemented by the Obama administration, Secure Communities is now operating in roughly 800 jurisdictions in 34 states. Washington is not among them.
The Washington State Patrol could provide the metrics to ICE with a few strokes on a keyboard. But the governor and state patrol say it’s up to the individual counties to request that the WSP forward the fingerprints to ICE. They report that none of the county sheriffs have so requested.
One gets the impression that no one wants to touch this tar baby until 2013, when the federal government will force the issue by funneling all FBI fingerprint data into ICE.
Opponents of Secure Communities appear to break down into two camps. One essentially doesn’t believe in borders and fights any serious attempt at immigration enforcement.
This camp wants to see illegal aliens legalized, the more the better, the sooner the better. They’re sabotaging their own goal; there’s not a chance the American public and Congress will buy into legalization unless they first see the borders secured. Without effective enforcement, legalization would only be an enticement to more illegal immigration.
More pragmatic opponents want to make sure Secure Communities doesn’t wind up as a dragnet that pulls in the innocent-but-arrested along with criminals.
Many illegal immigrants are industrious fathers and mothers of U.S. citizens; the country must deal with such families humanely – ultimately providing work visas or some other path to legal status.
ICE says Secure Communities is designed to sort out the dangerous from the simply unlucky. Good plan. If ICE delivers, a lot fewer people will be trying to sabotage the program.