Protesters rally against ICE's deportation program in Montgomery County
Dozens of protesters rallied Tuesday in Montgomery County against a federal program that gives immigration authorities access to fingerprints of prisoners.
“It's because of the Secure Communities program that many families like mine are facing separation,” said Florinda Lorenzo, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala.
Opponents say the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s “Secure Communities” program creates fear and distrust between law enforcement and illegal immigrants.
Lorenzo was arrested in 2010 for illegally selling phone cards to an undercover officer. The 28-year-old pleaded guilty and served 16 hours of community service for the misdemeanor.
“I was taken to jail, detained for four days and turned over to ICE,” she says.
With three young children, Lorenzo was granted a one-year reprieve but she may still be deported this summer.
The program, which went into effect in Baltimore and Montgomery County in March, is mandated by the federal government. It’s already in place in Prince George’s County and many other local jurisdictions.
“It doesn't matter what kind of offense you commit, whether it's traffic or criminal offense, if you don't have a form of ID with your picture and your address, then you're going to be taken to a police station and your fingerprints are going to get processed,” said Renato Mendoza of Latino advocacy group CASA de Maryland.
In an statement, an ICE official says that "approximately 95% of the total Secure Communities removals fall within ICE's civil enforcement priorities including convicted criminals, recent illegal border entrants and those who game the immigration system: immigration fugitives and repeat immigration law violators such as individuals who illegally re-enter the country after having been removed, a federal felony offense."
With 1,000 signatures, protestors want Montgomery County police to publicly oppose the Secure Communities program. They also want officers to consider the consequences before making an arrest.
“Fingerprints are shared with ICE at the point of arrest," said Gustavo Andrade, CASA de Maryland. "So police officers have an enormous amount of digression about whom and where to arrest folks."
Instead of arresting people who commit non-violent crimes and cannot provide a photo ID, opponents want officers to simply issue a ticket or warning.
If the goal of the program is to secure the public, then opponents say it's ineffective as it breaks down communication between police and illegal immigrants because the immigrants won’t come forward and cooperate with police investigations if officers are the agents of deportation.
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