Bill Would Allow California Counties to Suspend Federal ICE Program

California lawmakers have proposed legislation that would allow the state to opt out of the Secure Communities program, which critics claim undercuts local law enforcement and harms public safety.

Under the federal Secure Communities program, fingerprints of individuals booked into local jails are cross-checked with the FBI’s criminal database and then sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for screening. The system is designed to identify and then deport illegal immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes.

During a debate in the California Assembly, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said the program had caught 78,000 “deportable aliens” in California, almost half of who had previous felony convictions or at least three misdemeanors.

The California bill would allow counties to remove themselves from the federal programs while ensuring that those who participate create protective measures for juveniles and victims of domestic violence. The law would also require that participating counties develop strategies to minimize racial profiling and share only the fingerprints of convicted felons.

The bill passed in the state Assembly and now moves to the Senate.

In May, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General announced it was planning a review of the Secure Communities program after reports surfaced that immigrants who had not been convicted of serious crimes were being deported.