Federal fingerprinting program no big change for Eagle County could join
EAGLE, Colorado – Eagle County could soon join a growing national program that shares fingerprints with federal agencies to identify illegal aliens.
Gov. Bill Ritter Wednesday joined governors from 35 other states in mandating the Secure Communities initiative.
It’s designed so the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can identify criminal illegal aliens so they can be more easily deported.
Law enforcement officials are required to report all detainees suspected of being illegal aliens.
Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of every jail detainee will be turned over to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, then passed on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so ICE to check for criminal records and immigration status.
While it might be new in Arapahoe, El Paso and Denver counties – the Colorado counties selected for pilot programs – it’s old hat for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
“When we have people come in, we check them through ICE on a daily basis,” said Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy. “We’ve been doing this for five or six years.”
Eagle County already has a deal with ICE to temporarily hold illegal aliens, and is poised to join the program when it becomes available.
The local Sheriff’s Office sends fingerprints and other identifying information to federal officials.
“If someone comes in and they report that they were born outside the country, we send the information to ICE,” said Capt. Bill Kaufman, who runs the jail with the Sheriff’s Office.
The Secure Communities initiative could fill jails with illegals languishing behind bars for months. They might otherwise be handled by ICE or see their cases adjudicated more quickly, Kaufman said.
Local taxpayers would pick up the tab for that extended jail time, Kaufman said.
“Previously, when we hold ICE detainees it’s on the feds’ dime. This will likely be on the local taxpayers’ dime,” Kaufman said.
The program becomes mandatory across Colorado by 2013. Jefferson and Mesa counties might want in early. Boulder officials are trying to decide whether they want in at all, although the Arapahoe County Sheriff helped design the program.
Immigrant-rights groups and other advocacy organizations oppose Secure Communities.
Rep. Jared Polis hates it. The Boulder Democrat’s 2nd Congressional District includes Eagle County, and he took dead aim at ICE and Ritter.
“Compared to the standard agreement used by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) nationwide, Colorado’s version will give the incompetent ICE agency even greater latitude than other states, while at the same time requiring a lesser degree of accountability,” Polis said in a written statement.
Polis said under Secure Communities, ICE will be able to deport anyone, not just criminals.
“In order to truly fix our broken immigration system we must stop pursuing flawed enforcement-only approaches such as Secure Communities and pass comprehensive reform to meet the security and economic needs of our nation,” Polis wrote.
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