ICE’s nationwide fingerprint-sharing program is deporting large numbers of low-levels criminals and first-time offenders.
Secure Communities, the controversial program by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement that automatically runs immigration checks on detainees at jails across the country, is reining in large numbers of immigrants with no prior criminal history. This is one of the main charges leveled against S-Comm by its critics: the program was originally sold as a method to catch and deport hardened criminals, but undocumented migrants who did not have criminal histories would be swept up and deported.
According to an expansive dataset on S-Comm recently released by ICE and first reported by Ryan Gabrielson of California Watch this morning, more than a quarter of all S-Comm detainees deported from California and almost one third of S-Comm deportees nationwide had no prior convictions when they were detained.
From the inception of S-Comm in October of 2008 through February 28, 2011, 2,414,079 sets of fingerprints were automatically shared through S-Comm across the United States, resulting in 43,983 detentions or holds by ICE. 17,325 of those detentions resulted from non-criminal contact with law enforcement. 29,903 people were removed from the United States or returned to their home country, including 27,047 first-time offenders. By contrast, 24,671 of those deported through S-Comm had been convicted of “level one” offenses such as murder, kidnapping or aggravated assault.
During the same time span California jurisdictions took 1,656,743 fingerprints at local jails, which were then automatically submitted to ICE, resulting in 71,918 immigration detentions. Of those detentions, 20,157 involved people with no prior criminal record (the S-Comm statistics break down the people detained by their previous criminal records, but do not indicate why those individuals were taken into custody by law enforcement). Through S-Comm, 35,643 undocumented migrants were removed from the United States or returned to their country of origin from California, including 9,957 people with no previous criminal history.
A fierce debate is also raging about whether participation in S-Comm is optional or mandatory. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties both tried to opt out of the program and were denied by the state attorney general, something that could change if a bill currently in the California legislature passes both houses.
Interestingly, all 58 counties in California adopted Secure Communities before some large metropolitan areas with heavy concentrations of immigrant populations. According to the ICE report, the counties that comprise New York City and Chicago have yet to adopt S-Comm.
Los Angeles County, which began participating in S-Comm in August 2009, submitted 569,660 queries to the system, resulting in 25,247 detentions by ICE and 12,741 removals or returns (2,962 of which involved people with no criminal records).
Here’s how counties around the Bay Area break down regarding S-Comm queries, detentions and removals.
- Alameda (S-Comm adopted 4/20/10): 51,080 queries, 1,107 detentions or holds ( 401 with no prior criminal history), 625 removals (253 with no prior criminal history).
- Contra Costa County (S-Comm adopted 4/6/10): 41,741 queries, 2,155 detentions or holds (905 with no prior criminal history), 731 removals (325 with no prior criminal history)
- San Francisco (S-Comm adopted 6/8/10): 19,058 queries, 631 detentions or holds (240 with no prior criminal history), 241 removals (111 with no prior criminal history)
- San Mateo (S-Comm adopted 5/25/10): 14,748 queries, 586 detentions or holds (128 with no prior criminal history), 247 removals or returns (79 with no prior criminal history)
- Santa Clara (S-Comm 5/4/10): 42,129 queries, 1,144 detentions or holds (210 with no prior criminal history), 544 removals or returns (125 with no prior criminal history)
- Solano (S-Comm 1/12/10): 17,935 queries, 319 detentions or holds (140 with no prior criminal history), 186 removals or returns (93 with no prior criminal history)
- Marin (S-Comm 8/10/10): 7,056 queries: 223 detentions or holds (111 with no prior criminal history), 78 removals or deportations (38 with no prior criminal history)