The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

June 17, 2011
Feds announce redo of 'Secure Communities' program

Responding to a growing chorus of criticism, federal immigration officials are revamping a program designed to deport dangerous criminals.

To address concerns that too many low-level offenders are being netted, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton announced Friday that the Secure Communities program will be changed to focus more on those convicted of serious crimes.

A new advisory panel that includes local law enforcement officials and immigration advocates will come up with recommendations on how, for instance, to stop the deportation of people arrested, but not convicted, of minor traffic offenses who have no criminal history or serious immigration violations.

To deal with concerns that ethnic profiling is going on and that community policing is being hampered, there will be more training.

And to avoid cases where victims of domestic violence are deported, a new policy directs immigration officers to use discretion so that they and other crime victims aren't swept up.

"We need to do a better job of ensuring that the program is more focused on targeting those that pose the biggest risk to communities," Morton said in a statement. "Today we are undertaking several reforms--developed in collaboration with our law enforcement partners and other stakeholders--that help us achieve that goal and will improve and strengthen the program."

Officials and advocates in California have been at the forefront of pushing for change. A bill that would require that counties "opt in" to the program was passed May 26 by the Assembly and is in the Senate committee process.

The Bee editorial board also called for the program to be overhauled.

UPDATE: Some advocates blasted the changes as merely cosmetic and called for a moratorium on the program until more comprehensive reform.

"Today's announcement by ICE is simply window dressing," Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who is the bill's author, said in a statement.

"How many more innocent people have to be swept up by the ironically named Secure Communities program before the Obama administration will change course? Talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform is not an excuse for continuing with a flawed, unjust program that is having tragic consequences for communities across the country," he added.

Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of everyone arrested by participating local law enforcement agencies are run through federal immigration databases.

In California, nearly 1.8 million sets of fingerprints were checked from when the program started here in May 2009 through the end of March. Of those, 172,000 were matched to illegal immigrants and nearly 39,000 were deported.

Nearly 12,000 of those deported had been convicted of violent crimes or major drug offenses. But about 16,000 were deported for lesser crimes, and nearly 11,000 were "noncriminals" - those without any convictions, though they may have had gang affiliations or have been deported previously.

About Comments

Reader comments on are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Stuart Leavenworth on Twitter

Follow "SacBeeEditBoard" on Twitter