New Program Gives Local Police Immigration Enforcement Tools
by Michelle Chen
Sept. 13 – Massachusetts has become the launchpad for a new federal initiative to enmesh community policing and immigration-law enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last Thursday that it will provide state and local police with unprecedented access to a new federal database. The plan will be tested first in Boston.
The program will integrate two key federal fingerprint databases: the DHS’s growing collection of data on visitors to the US, and the FBI’s fingerprint identification system, which links to the country’s main criminal database, the National Crime Information Center.
Under the merger, according to the DHS, when state or local law-enforcement officials process the fingerprints of someone who is also registered for an immigration violation, federal authorities will be automatically alerted. Local police can assist federal officials by detaining the suspect.
Not surprisingly, the ACLU and immigrant advocacy groups are against this measure (I guess they have something against enforcing laws).
Later the article continues . . .
The DHS acknowledges that the system is still being developed, but says the Boston pilot will serve as a trial-run before the database goes nationwide.
Meanwhile, some states have begun warming to the prospect of taking on immigration enforcement duties. Since 2002, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division has launched special joint initiatives with agencies in Florida, Arizona, California and other states to apprehend undocumented immigrants on federal and state charges. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney proposed directing state troopers to help root out immigration violators earlier this year.
Generally, collaboration between local and federal authorities on immigration has been limited. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, however, the Department of Justice declared that states had "inherent authority" to apprehend immigrants, even for civil violations.
Romney has been on the forefront of calling for this type of intergration for essentially his whole term as Governor. See his testimony to U.S. House Select Committee on Homeland Security given on June 17, 2003 titled "First Responders: How States, Localities, and the Federal Government Can Strengthen Their Partnership to Make America Safer." (It's a long document . . . but has his call for such integration and his actions as Governor up to that point.)