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City leaders want federal deportation program changed

May 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
City leaders want Los Angeles to limit police participation in a federal deportation program where the fingerprints of people arrested are shared with immigration agents.

L.A. may soon join a growing number of cities objecting to the provisions in the federal deportation program called Secure Communities. It requires that an arrestee's fingerprints be sent to federal immigration officials.

The goal is to help lead to the deportation of immigrants who have committed serious crimes. However, Bernard Parks says in many cases its effect is just the opposite.

"Basically anyone who comes within our net we're going to deport," said Parks. "How does that help us solve a crime? How does that help us provide services to people, if people are unwilling to come forward because they are fearful that their status is more important than the crime?"

Parks is a former LAPD police chief who has worked to win the trust of immigrants. He's asked the city council to modify the Secure Communities Program. It appears that the program has resulted in almost as many people being deported after misdemeanors as after committing violent crimes.

In a nearly two year period, 12,000 illegal immigrants were deported after being convicted of major crimes. And almost the same number, 11,000, were deported after not being convicted of any criminal offense.

Parks' proposal would have only fingerprints of convicted felons sent to immigration. There would be protections for domestic violence victims and juveniles.

Police Chief Charlie Beck also has problems with the Secure Communities Program. He wants to work with the feds to achieve transparency.

"The core issue of Secure Communities, the deportation of criminal aliens, is important," said Beck. "But equally important is that its application has to be transparent and has to engender confidence."

The proposal to put some controls on fingerprinting and deportation is expected to be voted on next week in the city council. It may be symbolic, but symbolism is important in maintaining a trust built in the community for over 40 years.

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