- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Montgomery County Council shifted course Tuesday, softening its opposition to a federal deportation program for illegal immigrants.

The nine-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to “encourage” law enforcement to work closely with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “ensure that the Secure Communities program is implemented consistent with its stated purpose and goals.”

The resolution approved Tuesday replaced a more harshly worded measure introduced in late April encouraging county police to continue with their existing policy. That policy calls for sharing information only on arrestees accused of violent crimes and those who self-report that they were born outside the United States.

The change in wording came after the county was informed by federal officials that the program would be implemented locally Sept. 27, said council member Nancy Navarro, the resolution’s sponsor. Despite the change in tone, Mrs. Navarro said the resolution still asks police to focus efforts on violent offenders, which she said are ICE’s stated goals.

“I think if you don’t say anything and you don’t send a message, you are in a way implying that everything is fine,” said Mrs. Navarro, a Democrat. “The truth is evident by so many other jurisdictions that there has been a very uneven implementation” of Secure Communities.

ICE officials have declined to confirm a start date but anticipate the program will be active nationwide by 2013.

Under the program, now active in every Maryland jurisdiction but Montgomery County and Baltimore, all people arrested have their fingerprints scanned at local jails, which share the scans with the FBI and ICE.

Anyone found to be in the country illegally is turned over to ICE for deportation proceedings.

Immigrant activists and Mrs. Navarro are concerned about illegal immigrants with no prior criminal history being deported, despite ICE saying the program is meant to target violent criminals.