Rhode Island Police Departments not Required to Participate in Secure Communities Program

Rhode Island Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyer James E. Smith locates and passes along this interesting article from the Projo.

Police departments not required to participate in Secure Communities Program

01:00 AM EST on Sunday, December 12, 2010

By W. Zachary Malinowski

Journal Staff Writer

Attorney General-elect Peter Kilmartin favors Secure Communities Program.

The Journal / Ruben W. Perez

PROVIDENCE — There is no requirement that police agencies across the state participate in a federal initiative that would allow law-enforcement officers to fingerprint suspects and have them automatically checked against a federal database to determine whether they are illegal immigrants.

On Tuesday, Attorney General-elect Peter Kilmartin announced that he plans to adopt the initiative, called the Secure Communities Program, soon after he takes office next month. The program has come under attack from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Immigration Policy Center because they say officials fear that illegals with minor criminal problems — traffic violations — are as likely to face deportation as violent criminals.

David Borts, a Pawtucket-based immigration lawyer, said he reviewed the initiative and concluded that Kilmartin was using it as “a political ad.”  

“I don’t think that he has the power to compel [law enforcement agencies] to do anything,” he said.

Brett Broesder, Kilmartin’s spokesman, did not dispute Borts’ assertion.

“The Rhode Island police departments may choose not to take advantage of receiving the law enforcement and immigration identity information that is available through the federal information sharing capability,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “If a jurisdiction is technically capable of receiving this information but does not wish to receive it, the jurisdiction must formally notify its state identification bureau and ICE in writing.”

Nonetheless, Kilmartin expects most departments to participate because “this is a lawful and constitutional program aimed at stopping criminal activity.”

It’s too soon to tell how many, if any, police agencies in Rhode Island will opt out.

Central Falls Col. Joseph P. Moran III, president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, said that Secure Communities has not been discussed at the group’s regular meetings, but he said that his city will participate. He said that law-abiding illegal immigrants have nothing to fear.

“We don’t go knocking door-to-door and asking for papers,” he said. “We’re interested in the criminal element.”

In New York, the National Day Laborer Organization Network, also known as NDLON, has filed an Freedom of Information lawsuit against ICE demanding documents about the voluntary nature of the Secure Communities program.

“To keep our families together, we need to keep police and ICE separate,” said Sarahi Uribe, of NDLON in a statement. “We see innocent people swept up in a massive dragnet sending a chilling effect through migrant communities.”

Rhode Island is just one of 17 states nationwide that has yet to implement the cross-checking program. The government hopes to have the program up and running in all 50 states within two years.

A spokesman for Governor-elect Lincoln D. Chafee has said that Chafee does not have a problem with the initiative because an illegal must have a prior arrest, conviction or been deported to appear on the federal database.

State police Col. Brendan P. Doherty agreed with Chafee’s spokesman. He said that the state police support the initiative and he estimated that it would take about two weeks to get the program up and running in the department’s computer system.

Doherty said that state police Capt. LeRoy Rose, the department’s expert on criminal identification issues, has attended several meetings with representatives from ICE and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

He said that everyone arrested by the state police will be fingerprinted and their information will be automatically sent to ICE and Homeland Security in Washington. He said that the entire process should take about an hour.

Doherty said it will be up to the federal authorities to take any action against an illegal. He said that an illegal immigrant who files a criminal complaint or cooperates in a criminal investigation would not be fingerprinted.

“I don’t see any downside with the program,” Doherty said. “We don’t go out looking for people who are here illegally. But we are duty bound when these people end up in our lap.”

Broesder, Kilmartin’s spokesman, said the initiative will streamline what had previously been an outdated and labor-intensive process. Without the database link, he said, that local police agencies have to initiate a query on a suspect with the national ICE Law Enforcement Support Center, or contact the local ICE office for help.

If you have any questions regarding this article please contact Rhode Island Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyer James E. Smith at 401-649-0335 or by email by clicking HERE.

ALWAYS SPEAK WITH A LAWYER BEFORE SPEAKING WITH THE POLICE!

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About RI Criminal Defense Lawyer

My name is James E. Smith. I am a criminal defense lawyer in Rhode Island. If you have been arrested, or if you have been contacted by the police, call immediately for competent, skilled advise. 24/7 401-649-0335
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