Washington First State To Spurn Feds' Secure Communities Fingerprinting Program

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Washington State just did what San Francisco tried so hard to do but ultimately failed at: It gave the metaphorical finger to Secure Communities, the controversial fingerprinting program that identifies illegal immigrants picked up by local police.

Washington became the first state in the country to refuse to sign an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to implement Secure Communities, when the State Patrol rebuffed the federal agency. The state's governor is reviewing the decision. As reported in the Seattle Times Tuesday:


"We are a state law-enforcement agency, and we don't want to go down the road of being an immigration agency," Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said. "The chief and the governor are of the same mind on this."
Still, the State Patrol left it open for local law enforcement agencies to decide if they wanted to sign their own agreements with ICE. Secure Communities works by running fingerprints of detainees taken by local law enforcement against the federal database to identify immigrants who've had previous contacts with ICE. It means that people who are picked up for minor misdemeanors that are never charged by the district attorney can ultimately be reported to ICE and deported. 

"Each law enforcement agency must notify the state if they intend to participate in Secure Communities and the state will then work with ICE to activate those jurisdictions," wrote ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice in an e-mail to SF Weekly. "ICE personnel in Washington state are currently working to develop an outreach plan to inform local law enforcement agencies about this capability."
 
Defying Secure Communities, or S-Comm, has become the latest rallying cry of San Francisco civil rights activists, Police Chief George Gascon, and Sheriff Mike Hennessey -- all of whom argue the program scares immigrants away from reporting crime or cooperating in police investigations. California's Department of Justice signed an agreement to implement Secure Communities across the state. Despite Hennessey's vocal efforts to opt San Francisco out, he was told in a recent meeting with S-Comm officials he cannot.  

It turns out San Francisco is not its own republic. We just like to think we are.

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