Immigration Check Awaits Mass. Arrestees

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts State Police will soon begin checking the immigration status of everybody they arrest.

The state agreed Friday to sign onto the federal Secure Communities Program which is designed to help detect illegal immigrants, by involving police in the process. It allows arrestees’ fingerprint information to be checked against FBI criminal history records and biometrics-based immigration records kept by the Department of Homeland Security.

WBZ-TV’s Ron Sanders reports.

It has drawn fire from some immigrant advocacy groups who say the program discourages legal and illegal immigrants from cooperating with police.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition said her group agrees with the intent of the program, to arrest criminals but it needs at least a couple of years to be improved because 75 percent to 78 percent of those being deported are non-criminals. 

“The fact that the State of Massachusetts is rushing to sign the memorandum of understanding, it’s shocking to us because the implementation of the program has huge, huge problems,” said Millona.

WBZ News Radio’s Lana Jones talks with immigration advocates about the change.

The agreement marks a change for the Patrick administration, which in the past opposed having State Police involved in enforcing immigration laws.

Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan said they state did not sign on sooner because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was sending mixed signals regarding the program.

“It has become clear now that this program is going to be mandatory for all communities in the near future. With that knowledge we will sign the MOU with ICE,” Heffernan said in a written statement. “We will also work closely with all communities to monitor the implementation and share with federal officials any concerns that are raised.”

The Boston Police Department already participates in Secure Communities.

Since ICE began the program in October 2008, federal officials say immigration officers have deported more than 50,600 immigrants convicted of various crimes.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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