Federal officials provided “unclear and conflicting responses to inquiries and concerns” related to the federal immigration program known as Secure Communities that Governor Andrew Cuomo opted out of last year, according to a new report.
Though Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did not intentionally mislead the public, the report finds, it did cause states confusion over whether the federal program aimed at identifying and deporting criminal aliens was mandatory.
“Confusion within the agency regarding intent and participation led ICE to misinform and confuse stakeholders and the media,” concluded the report issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of General Inspector.
After some contradicting statements related to whether the program was mandatory, ICE said last year states could not opt-out of the program and that it would be implemented nationwide by 2013.
Cuomo withdrew New York from the Secure Communities program, noting that it failed to meet its stated goal to “deport serious felons.”
Critics of the program argued that it ensnared victims of domestic violence, individuals with no criminal record and low-level offenders.
The report, released last Friday, also says the program met its goal of finding and removing immigrants with criminal convictions and identifying them earlier in the justice process with “little or no additional cost to local law enforcement.”
States regularly send fingerprints of arrestees to the FBI to check for a criminal record. With Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases.
If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully in the U.S. or has a criminal conviction, ICE takes action.
Last April, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, top Democrat on the Immigration Subcommittee, requested an investigation to determine whether the program was effective, and whether misleading and false statements were made by administration and ICE officials intentionally regarding the mandatory participation.
She said the report failed to answer crucial questions, such as whether individuals with no criminal history get caught up in the program and if it is susceptible to racial profiling.
In New York, 31 counties became a part of the program before the Governor withdrew the state. Since January 2011, 409 undocumented immigrants were removed from those counties. ICE also activated the program in New Jersey and Connecticut in February 2012.
As of April, the program has been activated in 2,670 jurisdictions across 48 states and territories. More than 692,000 criminal aliens have been removed through the program since it was introduced three years ago.