Ammiano Bill to Change State's Involvement In ICE Fingerprinting Program

Categories: Law & Order
Barter: Fingerprint for a one-way flight to Tijuana
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced a glut of controversial and liberal legislation in the last week, including lowering the penalty for growing pot.

And now San Francisco's comedian-turned-politician has stepped into the mired debate around a federal fingerprinting program, called  Secure Communities or S-Comm, which helps identifies illegal immigrants. The bill would cancel California's participation unless local jurisdictions are allowed to opt-out of the program entirely. He takes it a step further, requesting that local jurisdictions have to pro-actively opt-in.

Specifically, the bill seeks to let San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Berkeley get out of the program, which checks all the fingerprints taken by local law enforcement against ICE's database with the intent of identifying people who have had previous contact with immigration authorities.

San Francisco was forced into participating in the program against city officials' will last summer via the agreement between the state Department of Justice with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program has deported many low-level criminals and even innocent people, according to ICE's own statistics. Local authorities say that the fingerprinting program scares away illegal immigrants from ever cooperating with law enforcement.

Ammiano's bill seeks to change the state's memorandum of understanding with ICE in several ways:
1. Local governments must pass a law to start participating in the program.
2. Jurisdictions that opt-in must submit a plan to the Department of Justice on how it will avoid racial profiling.
3. Cities have the option to exempt domestic violence victims and juveniles from the finger-print checking.
4. Jurisdictions can change the time at which they choose to submit the fingerprints to ICE from when people are charged with a crime to when they are actually convicted of it.
5. To prevent racial profiling, jurisdictions will not be able to submit the fingerprints of people stopped at driver's license checkpoints.

Lastly, the bill says that if the Department of Justice is unable to fulfill all those conditions, it must end the program completely.

While the state of Washington and Washington, D.C. have both successfully refused to enter into an agreement with S-Comm, they did the rebuffing at the outset.

Getting out of California's present contract will likely be much more of a battle.

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