Cuomo Cuts Ties With "Secure Communities"

Albany, NY – New York joins Illinois to become the second state in the nation to withdraw from the federal Secure Communities deportation program. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Observers say that in pulling out of what some call the Obama administration's showcase immigration enforcement initiative, Governor Andrew Cuomo is setting up a potential confrontation with Washington.

Cuomo argues the program, begun by the Bush administration in 2008, wasn't working and that his office has fielded many complaints about "Secure Communities", which had been activated in 35 of New York's 62 counties.

Secure Communities technically an information sharing partnership between two federal agencies - ICE and the FBI. It basically serves as an immigration-enforcement initiative. Federal Homeland Security officials claim it helps locate and deport dangerous criminals. Participating police agencies agree to send Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents the fingerprints of anyone they arrest and book.

Jackie Esposito is the Director of Immigration Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition: she says Secure Communities has eroded community policing and made the streets less safe.

Federal officials have made it clear that if states do not share fingerprints with the F.B.I., those states will lose access to federal criminal databases, undermining their ability to fight crime.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman applauds Cuomo's move.

Cuomo's decision aside, ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials have said states CANNOT withdraw from the program. They further claim that ICE doesn't need permission to enroll a state or community in the program, even though they originally said Secure Communities was a volunteer program.

Michael Gilhooly, the Northeast Communications Director for ICE, responded to a request for comment by email, stating that since Secure Communities began in October 2008, ICE has removed more than 77,000 criminal aliens more than 28,000 of whom were convicted of aggravated felonies such as murder, rape, kidnapping and the sexual abuse of children. ICE continues to work with its law enforcement partners across the country to responsibly and effectively implement this federal information sharing capability and plans to reach complete nationwide deployment by 2013."

The email also says "ICE regularly analyzes the effectiveness of its enforcement programs, as it is currently doing with Secure Communities. ICE looks forward to sharing the results of its analysis with the State of New York."