Montgomery to take part in federal deportation program
Target date for implementation is September
Montgomery County is expected to begin participating in a federal deportation program in September, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official.
However, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said she has drafted a resolution opposing the Secure Communities program, which she and leaders in Montgomery's minority community say could alienate immigrants and lead to more crime.
"The problem with this initiative in other jurisdictions is that it has led to real concerns with racial profiling and increased mistrust in the community overall," Navarro said.
Navarro said she was shocked to learn last week that Montgomery County where a third of the state's Hispanic population lives was expecting to implement the federal program.
The Secure Communities program scans and stores the fingerprints of anyone brought to the county jail in a database sent to the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who check to see if the person is wanted for a federal crime or listed as an illegal immigrant.
If they are found to be in the country illegally, they are turned over to ICE officials and can be deported.
Montgomery County and Baltimore city are the only remaining Maryland jurisdictions not participating, said Ross Feinstein, an ICE spokesman.
Secure Communities expanded to Wicomico County on Tuesday.
Nationwide, the federal program is in place in 1,211 jurisdictions in 41 states, Feinstein said. ICE hopes to expand the program nationwide by 2013.
Since its implementation in Maryland in October 2008, Secure Communities has been responsible for the deportation of 293 illegal immigrants, as of March 31, he said.
The bulk of those 223 came from Prince George's County; however, 145 people, or 65 percent, had no criminal record, and the reasons they were brought to jail were too minor for the county to pursue, Feinstein said.
"Secure Communities has created a crisis in Prince George's County, where it was first activated," said Gustavo Andrade, senior manager for organizing with advocacy group Casa of Maryland. "We would have hoped for much stronger leadership from Montgomery County in dealing with this crisis."
Casa is calling for a moratorium on adoption of the program or its abandonment, he said.
However, law enforcement officials in Montgomery County say Secure Communities is similar to its current procedures.
Officers provide weekly reports of convicted violent offenders and people involved in gun-related offenses to the federal government for potential flagging, as well as keep a database of foreign-born detainees at the county jail, said Patrick K. Lacefield, a county spokesman.
Arthur Wallenstein, director of the county's Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said Monday that the names of 262 people in county jail, work release or pretrial supervision out of a total population of 1,650 were faxed to ICE.
"For over 13 years Montgomery County has provided ICE with the names of every incoming prisoner who reports being born outside of the United States," Wallenstein said.
Montgomery Police Capt. Paul Starks said the transition to Secure Communities will have minimal effect in the county. He deferred questions about its implementation schedule to ICE, which has mandated its adoption.
Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger has said immigration enforcement is contrary to the department's mission and has rejected approaches taken in Frederick County and in Arizona.
In those cases, the role of local law enforcement in deportation efforts has increased.
Starks said Secure Communities actually would lessen the role of local officers.
While officials say the county is obligated to participate in Secure Communities, Navarro said she is moving forward with a resolution opposing the federal deportation program, which she expects to share when the council returns from recess next week.
Staff writer Daniel Valentine contributed to this report.