During Fox News' coverage of Secure Communities, a deportation program begun under the Bush administration, Fox pushed the idea that opting out of the program would create "sanctuary states" for dangerous undocumented immigrants. In fact, a large proportion of individuals who are detained and deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry only misdemeanors and minor infractions or have no criminal conviction or background.
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Fox Suggests If States Opt Out Of Program, Serial Killers May Be On The Loose
Fox: States That Opt Out Of Secure Communities Are Setting Up "Sanctuary Cities And Counties." On the May 31 edition of Fox News' America Live, Fox News correspondent Trace Gallagher suggested that if localities were allowed to opt out of the federal Secure Communities program for dealing with undocumented immigrants, they would be creating "sanctuary cities and counties." Guest anchor Martha MacCallum claimed that states considering opting out were "essentially creating sanctuary states." From America Live:
MacCALLUM: California is now one step closer to approving a bill that would allow counties to opt out of an agreement to check the immigration status of anybody who is arrested. Democrats in the state say that undermines local law enforcement and will lead to the deportation of innocent illegals. Republicans against the opt-out say that it undermines federal law.
That debate is now raising a lot of questions about the administration's commitment to protecting our border. We're going to sort of break down all of this for you. There's a lot in there, and Trace is going to sort of, you know, tell us how all of this comes out. Hey, Trace.
GALLAGHER: Hey, Martha. The program is called Secure Communities, and it was initiated by the Obama administration as a way to combat illegal immigration, especially for illegals who break the law other than by just coming into the country. The way it works is, is if you go to the county jail, they take your fingerprints and they automatically will cross-check those fingerprints against a federal immigration database. Now, if the inmate is illegal, they're turned over to the feds for possible deportation. I say possible, because the vast majority of those who are turned over are not deported.
GALLAGHER: For the Obama administration, it's kind of a pickle, right? Because sanctuary cities and counties is a violation of federal law. They're already suing the state of Arizona for trying to enforce federal law. The question now becomes what do they do to counties who are violating federal law.
MacCALLUM: Yeah, it's a very interesting debate, Trace. So thank you for that. California is now joining a growing number of states that are taking steps to opt out of that federal program, essentially creating sanctuary states where illegals will find it easier to avoid federal scrutiny. Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts are studying this as well. They may allow counties to opt out of this program that is an Obama-approved -- President Obama-approved program. [Fox News, America Live, 5/31/11]
MacCallum Accused States Not Participating In Program Of "Defection." Later during the same program, MacCallum hosted a debate on Secure Communities between radio host Lars Larson and Fox News contributor Bob Beckel. Responding to Beckel's criticism of Secure Communities, MacCallum said: "These people are booked in a county jail. They've been brought in and booked in the jail. So why would you not double-check if they are on any other lists? I don't -- terrorism, any other lists. We should know once they're brought -- how many times have you heard of someone being pulled over at a traffic stop and it turns out that that leads you to the serial killer you've been looking for, for 10 years." From the segment:
MacCALLUM: [California] is on the verge of a major break with federal immigration policy that was put in place by President Obama, and Janet Napolitano has enforced it, so how should the Justice Department handle this would-be defection on the part of some of these counties?
LARSON: [I]t's exactly what states should be doing. Illegal aliens, like it or not, are populated by the millions in our country. They come here, they take jobs, they send billions of dollars out of the country, and, unfortunately, they're involved in more than their share, a larger proportionate share, of criminal activity. States should be looking out for their own citizens by saying we're gonna identify these illegals, and then alert the federal authorities so they can be deported.
Now the Obama administration has not been great on deportations, and neither was the Bush administration, but it would be nice to see states stand up for their citizens. In this case, California is selling out California.
MacCALLUM: All right, so California, the Assembly, Bob, has passed this, and that it would allow some counties -- we know San Francisco County, Santa Clara County have said that they want to opt out. They don't want to participate in this program. But, you know, what could possibly be wrong with running a cross-check? Isn't that what we should be doing when you bring somebody in?
BECKEL: No, and I'll tell you why. First of all, Lars' comment about higher incidence of crime among undocumented workers is wrong. But, secondly, there are three types of people. There are people crossing the border illegally that are caught that ought to be deported. There are people who have criminal records who ought to be deport. But the rest of these people are people who are settled, whether you like it or not, in the communities and they're not going anywhere. They've got families. And when you take one of them --
MacCALLUM: But, Bob, that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about --
BECKEL: No, no, but let me -- I understand what you're talking about.
MacCALLUM: -- the example that you just mentioned at the top of your description. These people are booked in a county jail. They've been brought in and booked in the jail. So why would you not double-check if they are on any other lists. I don't -- terrorism, any other lists. We should know once they're brought -- how many times have you heard of someone being pulled over at a traffic stop and it turns out that that leads you to the serial killer you've been looking for, for 10 years.
BECKEL: There are about 13 million undocumented workers settled and living in the United States.
LARSON: Now he's going to change the subject.
BECKEL: If you think for a minute those people are all going to go home, you're out of your mind.
MacCALLUM: But, Bob -- but, Bob, you're ignoring the main premise here, which is that the person --
BECKEL: No, I'm not ignoring it.
MacCALLUM: No, but the person has been booked. They're sitting in a county jail. OK?
BECKEL: For a misdemeanor.
MacCALLUM: This is not -- we're not talking about gathering people up on the streets and checking their papers. We're talking about people who have violated -- are suspected of having violated the law and are sitting in a jail.
LARSON: That's right.
MacCALLUM: Wouldn't you expect, Bob, if you had 45 traffic violations, right, and you got booked, and you're sitting in a county jail, aren't you sitting thinking, uh oh, here we go. They're going to get every single one of those other violations of mine?
BECKEL: You probably would. There was an instance after guy being stopped for speeding, which was a misdemeanor count. He was Hispanic. The police took him down to the police, which they don't normally do on speeding charges, and they fingerprinted him and sent it to the INS. He was shipped out the country and his family was left behind. [Fox News, America Live, 05/31/11]
Bush Administration's Secure Communities Intended To Target Those With "Serious Criminal Offenses"
In Launching Secure Communities Program, Bush Administration Called For Removal Of "Aliens Who Have Been Convicted Of A Serious Criminal Offense." In the 2008 Secure Communities Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and states that agreed to the program, DHS and ICE stated that the purpose of Secure Communities is to use "advanced biometric and communications technology to share information among law enforcement agencies to identify, detain and remove from the United States aliens who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal." From the memorandum:
The purpose of this Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is to set forth the responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the State Identification Bureau (SIB) regarding implementation of the Secure Communities (SC) initiative related to biometric interoperability. SC is a comprehensive ICE initiative that focuses on the identification and removal of aliens who are convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal, including the utilization of advanced biometric and communications technology to share information among law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to identify, detain and remove from the United States aliens who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal.[ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 10/08]
ICE Stated That Secure Communities Prioritizes "Those Who Present The Greatest Threat." According to the MOA:
The SC risk-based approach classifies aliens convicted of a criminal offense into three levels, starting with those who present the greatest threat:
Level 1: Individuals who have been convicted of major drug offenses, national security crimes, and violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and kidnapping;
Level 2: Individuals who have been convicted of minor drug and property offenses such as burglary, larceny, fraud and money laundering; and
Level 3: Individuals who have been convicted of other offenses.
iii. ICE is committed to identifying aliens convicted of serious criminal offenses who are subject to removal in all three category levels, with a priority assigned on the basis of risk to individuals convicted of Level 1 offenses. ICE continues to exercise discretion through its field offices in taking enforcement action in cases of aliens convicted of Level 2 and 3 offenses as each situation demands. At no time shall this MOA be construed to limit the discretion of ICE in managing detention resources. [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 10/08]
ICE Report Found That Majority of Undocumented Immigrants Deported Pose Little Threat
ICE: Over 55 Percent Of Immigrants Booked Into Custody Carried Misdemeanors Or Had No Criminal Convictions. Based on ICE data on Secure Communities gathered from October 27, 2008, until April 30, 2011, 161,300 of 226,694 undocumented immigrants that were administratively arrested or booked into ICE custody committed misdemeanors or minor infractions or had no criminal convictions. ICE data further show that 74 percent of immigrants who were ultimately deported fell into those categories. From the data:
[U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 5/23/11]
States Say Program Is Not Meeting Intended Purpose
IL Gov. Quinn: There Is A "Clear" "Conflict Between The MOA As Signed By [Illinois State Police] And ICE's Implementation." In a May 4 letter to Marc Rapp, the acting assistant director of the Secure Communities program, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn explained that the Illinois State Police (ISP) will "no longer participate in the Secure Communities program." Quinn outlined the MOA's stated purpose as to "identify, detain and remove from the United States aliens who have been convicted of serious criminal offenses" and compared that to recent ICE statistics showing "less than 20% of those who have been deported from Illinois under the program have ever been convicted of a serious crime" and concluded that the ISP must opt out of the current program. [Illinois Office of the Governor, 5/4/11]
NY Gov. Cuomo: Program "Is Not Meeting Its Stated Goal And Has Serious Consequences For Witnesses, Victims Of Crime And Law Enforcement." In a press release announcing that New York was suspending participation in the program, the New York governor's office stated:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State will suspend participation in the federal Secure Communities Program to review the mounting evidence that the program is not meeting its stated goal and has serious consequences for witnesses, victims of crime and law enforcement.
The goal as stated by the federal government was to deport serious felons, and, based on evidence to date, it appears the program in New York is failing in this regard and is actually undermining law enforcement. Because of similar concerns, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating the program.
"There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York," Governor Cuomo said. "As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program." [New York Governor's Press Office, 6/1/11]
NY Times: States Resisting Secure Communities Program Due To Unaccomplished Goal. A May 5 article in The New York Times reported that the Secure Communities program is "facing growing resistance from state governments and police officials across the country." The article stated that some state officials claim "the program was not accomplishing its stated goal of deporting convicted criminals, but had swept up many immigrants who were here illegally but had not been convicted of any crime." [The New York Times, 5/5/11]
DHS IG Set To Review Secure Communities Amid Criticism
LA Times: DHS Inspector General To Investigate Secure Communities. A May 18 article in The Los Angeles Times reported that Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General will be looking into the Secure Communities program because the program "purports to target 'serious convicted felons' for deportation but has ensnared many illegal immigrants who were arrested but not subsequently convicted of crimes or who committed minor offenses, a letter obtained Wednesday shows." From the article:
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General plans an investigation of an immigration enforcement program that purports to target "serious convicted felons" for deportation but has ensnared many illegal immigrants who were arrested but not subsequently convicted of crimes or who committed minor offenses, a letter obtained Wednesday shows.
It will also examine cost, "the accuracy of ICE's data collection," whether the program is being applied equitably across communities, and the way ICE officials portrayed the program to states and counties, which were initially told they could opt out but were later informed that participation has always been mandatory. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/11]