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- 05-11-2012, 12:05 PM #1
Sheriff Hodgson hails federal decision to launch Secure Communities program
Hodgson hails federal decision to launch Secure Communities program
By Brian Boyd
May 09, 2012 12:20 AM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is launching the federal Secure Communities program in Massachusetts over the objections of Gov. Deval Patrick and immigration activists, local law enforcement officials learned Tuesday.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson welcomed the news that the program, designed to determine suspects' immigration status, will go into effect statewide May 15. "It's a big victory for the law enforcement community," said Hodgson, who had fought to bring the program to the state. "It's a big victory for the citizens of Massachusetts." When a suspect is brought to a Bristol County jail, his or her biometric fingerprint information will be shared not only with the Federal Bureau of Investigation — as is currently the case — but also with immigration officials, he said.
The state's public safety secretary, Mary Beth Heffernan, described Secure Communities as an information sharing program between federal agencies that can only be implemented by the federal government.
Heffernan said the program will have no practical effect on how Massachusetts handles fingerprints and information sharing. She said the state already sends all fingerprints to the federal government and that practice will continue. Patrick has opposed the program, saying it runs a serious risk of ethnic profiling and fracturing important relationships necessary for law enforcement.
Corinn Williams, a local immigration advocate, said the program will lead to immigrants being picked up on minor infractions and subjected to possible deportation as a result.
"It does have the potential for ripping families apart," said Williams, director of the Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts. "That's a real concern in a community like New Bedford." She also said she feared the program will have a chilling effect on the larger immigration community, inspiring distrust of law enforcement agencies.
"Clearly, it will have a devastating impact on the immigrant communities in Massachusetts," she said.
Hodgson criticized Patrick's opposition and argued that the program won't lead to ethnic profiling, saying all suspects who come through will be fingerprinted. He also said legal immigrants are at risk of being victimized by criminal illegal immigrants, who are often living in the same communities.
Hodgson said the program strengthens the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies, which is critically important. He also said it sends a message to illegal immigrants that there are consequences for criminal behavior.
"This gives us the very best tools available to target the criminal illegal immigrant in our community and get them off the streets as quickly as possible," he said.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., also praised the decision to activate the program throughout the state.
"The people of Massachusetts will finally have the protection they deserve from violent criminals who have entered our country illegally," Brown said in a statement. "This is an important tool in keeping our citizens safe and giving our law enforcement officials, especially the sheriffs, the tools and resources they need to do their jobs."
Associated Press material was used in this report.
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