Many people in the San Diego area have likely heard of the Secure Communities program. Secure Communities is a federal immigration program administered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows local law enforcement to use fingerprint analysis to identify illegal immigrants and check backgrounds against an FBI data base. If a fingerprint check turns up criminal history, it often leads to deportation.
The program, which is meant to target only immigrants who have committed serious crimes, has come under attack by many immigrant rights groups. The latest group to speak out against the program was the American Civil Liberties Union, which bashed the program last week, saying four legal U.S. citizens were arrested because of it.
Last week, the ACLU called for the city of Los Angeles to cut ties with ICE and Secure Communities. It says four Hispanic men — all U.S. citizens — have been arrested since August.
They told the story of one man who was arrested while shopping last month. Despite having spent $600, he was taken into custody because one $10 item was not scanned when he checked out. The ACLU says the arrest was also related to the fact that he mistakenly forgot to purchase candy that his children were eating in the store. He spent four days in jail because of it. Because of his accent, officers and jail employees did not believe he was a legal U.S. citizen, said the ACLU.
Despite criticism from the ACLU, an ICE spokesperson argued that only the most unusual cases have been pointed out. She stressed that enforcement officers at the local, state and federal levels have been working together to ensure Secure Communities is carried out appropriately.
Two of the men who were wrongly detained plan to sue.
Source: The Washington Post, “ACLU says 4 US citizens in California arrested through federal immigration enforcement program,” Dec. 14, 2011