By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV

CHELSEA (CBS) – Hundreds of people came out to protest – loudly – against a proposed plan that immigrant advocates fear could break up families and cast too wide a net.

The debate is over a federal plan known as the “Secure Communities” program.

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WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports

It allows local police to share the fingerprints of people they arrest for felonies with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

If the prints match someone who is in the country illegally, that person could be deported. Federal officials say they determine deportation based on the crime alleged to have been committed and on the person’s specific immigration history. The goal, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, is to find and remove from the country illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes.

The City of Boston has been a test city for the program since 2006 — and now, it is set to go statewide.

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That’s why so many people are coming out to voice their opposition, as they did at a Thursday night ICE information session at Chelsea High School.

“This is devastating,” said Gladys Vega, Executive Director of the Chelsea Collaborative. “We are completely appalled that we’re actually having this conversation.”

Vega and other immigrant advocates claim the program goes too far.

“The problem is, in the Boston example so far, more than 50% of the people that they’re deporting under this program in fact have not committed any crime,” according to Carol Rose, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “It’s being used as a large sweep.”

Sunita Patel, a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, says her organization has reviewed the numbers and, in a nutshell, Secure Communities doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Instead, Patel said, it “ends up destroying families and targeting all immigrants, not just the folks the program is supposed to be impacting.”

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The program is expected to be in use statewide by the end of 2013.