Courts & Corrections

Feds say there is no opting out of “Secure Communities” policing

Danilo Lopez, right, is fighting extradition from the U.S. after he was questioned when the vehicle he was riding in was stopped for speeding. He says Secure Communities causes prejudicial policing. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs
Danilo Lopez, right, is fighting extradition from the U.S. after he was questioned when the vehicle he was riding in was stopped for speeding. He says Secure Communities causes prejudicial policing. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

A federal information-sharing policy newly implemented in Vermont has put the state’s look-the-other-way, bias-free policing policy in jeopardy.

The policy, Secure Communities, uses existing procedure and infrastructure to assist the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division in catching illegal immigrants.

Before Tuesday, when state or local police in Vermont made an arrest and submitted the suspect’s fingerprints into the FBI database, the fingerprint information only went to the FBI database. The fingerprints were checked against known criminals or outstanding warrants, allowing for increased law enforcement capability across state lines.

Secure Communities is simple: It takes down a previously existing division between the FBI fingerprint database and ICE, thereby allowing immigration officials to track and investigate arrested individuals in Vermont.

In a statement, ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein noted that since the beginning of the program’s nationwide rollout in 2008, “Secure Communities has helped ICE remove more than 135,000 convicted criminal aliens including more than 49,000 convicted of major violent offenses like murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children. Approximately 95% of the 179,000 removals generated through Secure Communities clearly fell within one of ICE’s enforcement priorities.”

But critics of the program say the cost is too high. Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based activist group focused on the migrant community, held a protest outside Obama’s Vermont campaign headquarters Tuesday.

Danilo Lopez, a volunteer for the group, is in the process of fighting deportation after a state trooper pulled over a car he was riding in.

“I, in September of last year, was a passenger … the State Police stopped the car for speeding and the trooper saw my skin color and said ‘Hey, are you illegal? I need your papers,’ and pressured and pressured, and the trooper caller border patrol to arrest me,” Lopez said in a mix of English and Spanish.

Stories like this one shed a different light on the issue. Lopez was not committing a crime when the state police stopped the car he was in, and he says discriminatory policing led to the charges against him.

About 50 people marched through Burlington passing out orange pamphlets calling Obama “Deporter-in-Chief” and that criticize the president for lack of follow-through on campaign promises of immigration reform.

The pamphlet says Obama deported 1.4 million immigrants, set aggressive annual deportation quotas of 400,000, and is now imposing “S-COMM” nationwide without consultation.

Other communities have resisted Secure Communities, including Santa Clara County, Calif., where the county’s board of supervisors voted to opt out of a connected tactic by which ICE can request that local and state law enforcement hold someone currently in custody for an additional 48 hours to give federal enforcers time to come investigate the individual. Tuesday’s protesters called on Vermont to do the same.

But Feinstein says there is no opting out of the program.

“The information-sharing partnership between DHS and the FBI that serves as the cornerstone of Secure Communities is mandated by federal law,” Feinstein said in an email statement. “As a result, Secure Communities is mandatory in that, once the information-sharing capability is activated for a jurisdiction, the fingerprints that state and local law enforcement voluntarily submit to the FBI for criminal justice purposes to be checked against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) biometric identification system for criminal history records are automatically sent to DHS’s biometric system to check against its immigration and law enforcement records.”

Thus, the only way for Vermont to opt out of the program is to cease voluntary submission of fingerprints into the FBI database.

When asked what he thought about the possibility of opting out of the program, Gov. Peter Shumlin said:

“It’s no secret that our national immigration policies don’t necessarily synch with the way that we see things here in Vermont, and I’ve been pretty clear and outspoken about that,” Shumlin said. “We cannot get milk to market, our farmers cannot thrive in a tough economy without some guest labor, we know that. We also know that we want to treat anyone who is working in the state Vermont with the dignity and respect they deserve and make them part of the community, not isolate them so they can’t get to the doctors, can’t get to the grocery store for fear of being found. Right now, the policy has been that whenever we do an arrest in America fingerprint arrested person and send that to a database with the FBI. They’re now going to share that with immigration. I’ve asked my commissioner, Keith Flynn, to sit down with some of the groups we’ve been working with on other issues and look at this issue and see if we can help mitigate some of their concerns.”

Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Flynn was unreachable for comment Wednesday.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that Santa Clara County voted to opt out of Secure Communities, when in fact they voted to opt out of ICE holds, which weakens the effect of Secure Communities.

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  • Dan Luneau

    Kudos to Gov. Shumlin but we need to have our delegation in Washington fight for some middle ground on this which I strongly suspect they are already doing. Very difficult for our Vermont law enforcement community to work in a vacuum. That said we need guest labor here in Vermont and without it Vermonters will suffer. We need help now!

  • Good Story! Thanks for the coverage. A couple technicalities that should be made more clear. Vt cannot opt out of S-COMM. However, in order for S-COMM to work local, county and state police must recognize REQUESTS by ICE to detain or hold undocumented folks. These requests are only that. Under S-COMM well over 1/2 the people detained and deported were not serious criminals as the program claims. So now if someone is charged with a crime (pre-conviction) ICE can intervene without any transparency and oversight upon that person being booked and say ‘Hold them’. But, counties and some states (e.g. Connecticut) are not simply taking ICE’s word on this. Particularly in light that ICE has proven to force county and state jails to hold individuals on our own dime for a program used mostly to meet agressive immigration quotas of 400,000 per year by the deporter in chief Obamaa. So, here is an example of what Vermont can do:

  • Luci Stephens

    While ICE touts the arrest/ deportation of violent criminals as being 1/3 of aliens arrested/ deported for criminal offenses, I have not seen any data on the other 2/3 arrested. Would such data show that the negative social and economic impacts of those arrests/ departations significantly outweigh any actual public safety gain? How many more VT and NY dairy farms will cease to exist courtesy, at least in great part, of ICE predation disguised as public safety? ….and who benefits, economically and politically, from such predation? I’m not normally into conspiracy theories, but I believe it likely there is huge political and financial gain being realized by a few (1%ers and their associates, perhaps???) via ICE policies/ practices. It is probably irrelevant and of little consequence to such persons that most US citizens will either immediately or ultimately be negatively impacted, primarily economically but for many, also very painful social impacts, as long as these 21st century witch hunts persist.

    I agree that this is an issue that should be a high priority for our congressional delegation. I also believe that VT law enforcement agencies need to be really careful regarding how any of their personnel interact with ICE. The VSP officer who arrested Mr. Lopez was in contact with ICE so quickly he might have had them on ‘speed dial’. Some federal law enforcement agencies have a history of personnel recruitment and involvement with VT law enforcement. It is troubling to think that law enforcement practices in VT could be co-opted by federal agencies with agendas that may not be good for VT.

    • Christian Noll

      Very well said Luci. You’re right on the ball again.

      “Would such data show that the negative social and economic impacts of those arrests / deportations significantly outweigh any actual public safety gain?”


      “How many more VT and NY dairy farms will cease to exist, courtisy, at least in great part, of ICE predation disguised as public safety?”

      Very good question.

      Luci your entire post was right on the money.

  • Barry Kade

    Since submission of fingerprints is voluntary, Vermont can simply institute a policy of not sending the FBI fingerprints for those charged with misdemeanors, except possibly for crimes where there may be an overriding policy reason to do so.
    There was a supreme court case 15 years ago that determined that the feds “could not command the States’ executive power in the absence of a particularized constitutional authorization.” That case Printz v. United States, concerned a requirement that state officials do background checks under the Brady bill, until the federal apparatus was in place. The same principle applies here.
    The previous suggestion that Vermont simply refuse to hold those charged is also worthy of consideration.
    Governor Shumlin can and should do more than simply publicly stating his position on the subject.

  • Frederick Walker

    More Secure Communities?

    Didn’t I hear of something like that before? Yes, I think it was quite a while back. Wasn’t that what Winston Smith was talking about over at the Ministry of Truth?

    I believe he was saying something of that sort, out of sight of the telescreens of course. “Secdure Communties, ah, yes, to keep the proles out.” Where you heard every night the blaring of loudspeakers saying, ‘We intercepted your email, tapped your phones, and kept you under video surveilance. We found no suspicious behavior here…you are cleared to feel safe now.’

    “Safe? Was that a way of feeling good?” Winston might have said. “Or was it a locked steel container to put a community in, or,— was it an eight or nine inch small rubber tube to catch semen in?” I’m not sure of all he said, but he did mention taking a safe over to the Cryonics Department in the Ministry of Religion. “The Bishops will be happy now. No murder here…” I think he said. He also mentioned writing about it in his diary and signing it…

    Winston Smith,
    Nineteen Eighty-Four.

  • Dave Francis

    Alabama, as Arizona and the 48 states are up against the wall of harsh forced unfunded mandates by U.S. courts. Every state is confronted by billions of dollars to pay for illegal immigration in public welfare. The cost to Alabama for Costs for Illegal Aliens as studied by The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIRUS) it was $2.7 billion dollars owing to the growing illegal alien population. But of course nobody knows the true amount as figures for population and the costs to support these people are kept subdued. But the majority of Americans are well aware that according to studies of FAIRUS and other pro-sovereignty organizations, that annually the expenditure is well over $113 billion dollars. In addition organizations have completed their own studies, that if another Amnesty was enacted we would raise our U.S. treasury deficit from 16 Trillion dollars, by another 2.6 trillion dollars.

    Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney had better stick to their guns, and undergo their promises to the American taxpayer that passage of new negative immigration laws which is not in the best interests of the people. Americans are frustrated with the draining of their money to subsidize any person who crosses the border, including the escalation of births to illegal aliens and then claiming citizenship. Any thoughts of gaining passage of Amnesty by either party will condemn the majority of states to even more need for health care treatments, hospital inpatients for free dialysis and serious surgeries with no payment due. More costs dumped eventually on taxpayers of uncompensated care from the government. Awarding education for hundreds of thousands of illegal children, who can claim citizenship under a very wobbly law, which is destined to reach the Congress? In less than 15 years are schools are overrun by children who cannot speak English, necessitating more time spent by teachers and therefore affecting the failing grades across the country in education.

    Of all the politicians that must be thrown out of office, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada must go. Not only has he derailed a amendment to stop illegal aliens living in this country, receiving mostly fraudulent IRS child tax reimbursement, to the tune 0f 4.2 billion dollars, he has done nothing to halt the influx of foreign nationals occupying Nevada. The tired old lawmaker has guaranteed that those working in this country illegally will sustain in receiving billions of dollars in tax reimbursement for children that are not present in this country. He is responsible for stopping ICE from raiding the building construction sites, but clandestine inviting mass illegal aliens into the state. The TEA PARTY must adjoin to seat a new younger leader in his place, as he is just one of the liberal-Democrats, involved in wrecking this country’s economic return.

    In other words by passing another Comprehensive Immigration Reform would devastate our economy in completing any amnesty. Even prohibited programs as the Democrats Dream Act, the Sanctuary policies has its costs, to all taxpayers and further encouraging the exploitation of the American taxpayer. Less enforcement also has a negative impact, as Obama administration stands down from proceeding with large scale ICE raids or the deportation of all individuals. Years of complete indifference by both political parties to securing the borders, interior ‘seek and detain’ has allowed large influxes of criminal illegal aliens, with many reentering time and time again. The fact that illegal alien expectant females are procuring even more billions of dollars in education and schooling for their children, if once stepping on to U.S. soil, or disguising their pregnancy when alighting from aircraft, with a design to take advantage of the ‘Birthright Citizenship’ law badly manipulated from its original intent.

    There are obstacles in Congress by both sides of the aisle, but even so 59 bipartisan sponsors to amend this law. Similar is to mandate the very controversial E-verify bill, that instead of voluntary for businesses, so it becomes the rule of the land. That every business, no matter how large and small must authenticate their workers, showing they are eligible to work in the United States. This is a very strength of every voter, to stop the continuation of these wrongly enacted laws, to amend Birthright Citizenship, so one parent must be a U.S. citizen, by birth or naturalization. All voters must fight back and demand from your Senator or House Representative that E-verify must be implemented permanently and Birthright citizenship be amended. Neither new law costs money, but will save absolutely billions in YOUR taxes. Chipotle is typical of businesses that think they are above the law, when hiring workers. Cheap labor is for profiteers, who have no conscious hiring foreigners, when there are thousands of legal Hispanics who would in this recession; jump at a chance of a job? As an addition ‘Secure Communities’ is now a mandatory law, so all suspects taken into custody will have their fingerprints sent to Homeland Security and ICE. But we must push the idiots in Washington, to pass mandated E-Verify and the amendment to the Birthright Citizenship Act.

    E-Verify as nationwide push of enforcement have a 98 % successful program, that detects foreign labor and unable to verify, they will start to expedite departure to their home countries. All these policies, rules and regulations is the agenda of the monumental growth of the Constitutional TEA PARTY splinter group of the Republican Party. Both entrenched parties are nervous of this rise of a national party, which they cannot control. Many groups and media aspire to offer information about the movement and costs of illegal immigration into this country, but much is not factored in to taxpayer’s outlay and intelligence which can be found at the websites of American Patrol and NumbersUSA.