View Full Version : Utah counties get boost to fight illegal immigration

04-01-2010, 03:15 PM
Utah counties get boost to fight illegal immigration
A program that debuted in Utah last week could make it easier to deport people jailed for other infractions by matching their fingerprints to federal immigration records.
Utah became the 17th state to implement "Secure Communities," after the program launched last week in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and leaders from several law enforcement departments were on hand to detail the program, which is expected to grow.
"We're going to be able to tell law enforcement officials who they have on their hands and if they're removable," said John Morton, the assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The program takes the fingerprints jails already record when booking people and sends them to ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigations to check criminal records and immigration status, Morton said.
In addition to Hatch and Morton, sheriffs from six counties were in attendance for the announcement at the Unified Police Department Administration Building.
After one week in the three counties, ICE officials said the program identified 30 undocumented immigrants. After 18 months throughout the country, the system has led to 25,000 deportations, Morton said.
"It's a serious thing that we've been kind of waiting for a while," Davis County Sheriff Bud Cox said. He later added, "We're very excited about having this program come to
Jails in Cache, Weber and Box Elder counties are expected to implement the system in the next few months. After that, counties in southern Utah will become a priority, Hatch said. ICE expects the system to be nationwide by 2013.
Hatch praised the program because it uses "existing technology and can be implemented with limited to no cost to the agencies."
Opponents say its an unfair way to target immigrants. Frank Cordova, of the Utah Coalition de la Raza, an immigration advocacy group, said, "I think its another method of profiling."
Morton said that is a non-issue under "Secure Communities," because everyone who is booked into jail is already fingerprinted.
Jim Winder, the Salt Lake County sheriff, said ICE has found a way to crack down on immigration without infringing on civil rights.
"I believe a perfect balance, with 'Secure Communities,' does exist," he said.
The program emphasizes deporting inmates who have served sentences for major crimes, such as murder, rape or drug charges. After inmates are noted as undocumented immigrants, they still will fulfill their sentences in the jail system before they are deported.
"If you're here unlawfully and you're committing crimes, we're going to identify you and you're going to be removed," Morton said.