Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Secure Communities Opt Out Confusion Continues - Arlington Unable to Opt Out

The county of Arlington, Virginia has been unsuccessful in its attempt to remove itself from the Secure Communities program.  The program shares information gathered for criminal background checks with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Arlington attempted to opt out of participating, citing concerns about the program's impact on trust in the police.  Indeed many opponents of the program say it will deter undocumented persons from reaching out to police if they are victims of or witnesses to crime.

ICE previously laid out steps for opting out of the program which began with meetings like the one Arlington recently had with ICE representatives. But at the meeting, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said she was informed the county cannot be removed from Secure Communities because the state of Virginia agreed to participate in the program.  After the meeting, Arlington appears to be giving up on its push to remove itself from the program.

The continuing confusion surround the ability of localities to opt out appears to stem from statements from Secure Communities officials indicating that the program was optional.  However, these statements were later contradicted by Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary, and other officials, who stated that participation in the program is mandatory.

Read more about the controversy in the New York Times and about Arlington's efforts here.