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| Columns |

Are Cops Racially Profiling Because of a New Immigration Program? ICE Responds

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Last week, we reported on "Secure Communities," a new national program that links local detention centers into a national database of illegal aliens.

In our story, critics of the plan said it might cause racial profiling. If cops know that anyone they book into custody gets run through an immigration database, it could encourage police to arrest vans full of Hispanics on minor traffic offenses just to see what pops up, according to immigrant rights groups.

That's pretty much what happened in Phoenix last year when the sheriff's office adopted a similar new program -- and now they have a federal lawsuit on their hands

But Nicole Navas, a Miami-based spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says our story got it wrong. Secure Communities is all about giving law enforcement more information about criminals -- and in Miami, it has already paid off.

In a response to New Times, Navas cites one case when an illegal immigrant from the Bahamas was booked on a minor traffic violation -- until the Secure Communities database revealed he had 31 previous arrests and 11 convictions for violent crimes. Read Navas's defense of Secure Communities after the jump.

Your article entitled "Illegal Immigrant Crackdown," dated June 30, completely missed the point of ICE's Secure Communities program and did not give a complete overview of the program leaving it misleading to Miami New Times readers.

The program specifically runs out of the detention facilities in the partnering counties. This is not a program that is implemented on the street level. Essentially, the implementation of this new program results in ICE to have a virtual presence in local jails and detention centers and enables ICE to work just as closely with small town detention centers as it does with larger metropolitan facilities to identify level one criminal aliens being processed.

It is completely inaccurate to link racial profiling to the program. All inmates being processed in the partnering county jails have their fingerprints checked against both DHS and DOJ databases. This new interoperable technology allows ICE to identify and focus on removing the most dangerous incarcerated criminal aliens. ICE will prioritize and identify removable criminal aliens based on their threat to the public safety before they are released into the community.

Individuals arrested on low-level crimes may have violent criminal histories in addition to being in violation of immigration law. Before the program was implemented, local officers did not have access to the immigration histories of these offenders. The Secure Communities program allows local officers to know as much as possible about the individuals they apprehend, which maximizes public safety.

On March 18, 2009, ICE's Criminal Alien Program in Miami identified a citizen and national of the Bahamas after he was booked on an open warrant for a traffic violation. The individual had 31 previous arrests and 11 convictions, including aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, burglary, and multiple charges for dealing and possessing drugs.

The North Miami Beach PD identified this individual as a member of the Victory Park gang and determined he entered the United States illegally. ICE will assume his custody upon his release from state custody and ensure that he is not released into the community and begin removal proceedings.

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