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Massachusetts Joins Federal "Secure Communities" Program Under Mandate


The federal “Secure Communities” program requires that fingerprints be taken from arrested individuals and compared to immigration and FBI databases. Proponents are saying the program is the most effective tool for detecting illegal immigrants. Opponents argue the system leads to racial profiling, or targets low-level offenders.

Laura Rotolo of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts says that the unexpected federal mandate to send fingerprints of all detained individuals to federal immigration authorities will increase fear and paranoia among ethnic communities in Massachusetts. She compared it to what has been observed under Arizona’s strict immigration law.

Frank Soults, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition said that the Secure Communities program could lead to deportations for immigrants who have committed no crimes.

Republican US Senator Scott Brown, who advocated and wrote Governor Deval Patrick about implementing the issue said in a statement that Secure Communities “ 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.” Governor Patrick has spoken out Secure Communities and refused to sign on to the program last year.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, a strong advocate for Secure Communities, says that the increased access to homeland security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an essential tool to make communities safer.

Sheriff Evangelidis also mentioned how the program could prevent crimes in the future such as the death of Matthew Denice, of Milford, MA, who last year was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by an illegal alien.

Jeff Napolitano of the Western Massachusetts American Friends Service Committee is working with town officials in Amherst and collecting signatures to draft a bylaw exempting Amherst from the federally mandated program.

City Councilors in Springfield and Northampton have also voted in the past opposing the Secure Communities program.

The federally mandated program takes effect next week.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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