Norton signs on to congressional opposition of Secure Communities

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D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton added to the District’s groundswell of opposition to Secure Communities — a federal program intended to deport violent offenders who are in the country illegally — by signing a letter that calls on President Obama to immediately terminate the program.

Mrs. Norton, the District’s non-voting member of Congress, joined more than 30 House members in condemning the program, saying a recent task force report “makes clear that Secure Communities sows mistrust of the police and other uniformed personnel, thereby making our communities less safe,” according to the letter.

The Secure Communities program was designed to join federal, state and local agencies in removing serious criminals not in the United States legally.

Critics question whether the program, in which localities share with ICE and the FBI the fingerprints of individuals booked into jails to determine their immigration status, meets the intended goal of removing dangerous aliens or potentially divides families by deporting nonviolent immigrants.

“We urge you to immediately stop Secure Communities,” the House letter says. “We cannot make our communities safer by tearing them apart.”

The District’s local leaders have signaled their distrust of the program in recent weeks.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed an order in October that prohibits public-safety officers from asking people about their immigration status. The order also directs officers in seven D.C. agencies not to arrest people based only on their immigration status and draws a bright line between local duties and federal law enforcement.

Last week, the D.C. Council unanimously supported a measure that cuts in half the amount of time, from 48 hours to 24 hours, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to pick up a D.C. inmate being held on a federal immigration detainer. It also requires the federal government to pay for the detainee’s stay.

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