Federal Officials Suspend Immigration Enforcement Agreements In Arizona

The Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program is supposed to help prioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes. It formed agreements with state and local police departments to check the fingerprints of every person booked at jails against an immigration database to identify who is undocumented. But the program failed to focus on serious criminals — most people identified through the program were charged with traffic-related offenses in some jurisdiction — and thousands of U.S. citizens have been detained through the program.

Following Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that invalidated three sections of Arizona’s immigration law, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded Secure Communities agreements with seven Arizona law enforcement agencies. They were the last agencies in Arizona with street-level task force agreements under the controversial program to check the immigration status of suspected undocumented immigrants. After the ruling let the “show me your papers” provision stand in SB 1070, a DHS official said the Obama administration determined that the agreements are “not useful” now in states that have Arizona-style laws.

Along with ending the partnerships, DHS officials said officials would not respond to calls from Arizona officials who want immigration agents to take undocumented immigrants into custody unless the suspects meet the criteria for enforcement priorities, such as convicted criminals or deportees who have returned to the U.S. While the task forces have been suspended, several Arizona departments still check immigration status in jails.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) accused President Obama of not thinking that Arizona is “part of the country anymore” if officials are pulling back on Secure Communities in the state. But a task force advising the president last year found that Secure Communities had a “negative impact” on public safety. It had “eroded the public trust” because even immigrants who had not committed serious crimes were being detained.