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Brown presses Patrick on illegal immigrants

Senator Scott Brown wants Governor Patrick to facilitate the expansion of Secure Communities.

US Senator Scott Brown urged Governor Deval Patrick yesterday to ensure the state’s full and immediate participation in a federal program aimed at identifying and deporting illegal immigrants who commit additional crimes, flee arrest, or present a security threat.

Six weeks ago federal immigration authorities informed the nation’s 50 governors that they are no longer seeking state participation in the program, known as Secure Communities, and that the federal government would begin implementing the program unilaterally. But according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the program is active in just one of 15 public safety jurisdictions in Massachusetts, Suffolk County.

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After the recent deaths of three Massachusetts residents, allegedly at the hands of illegal immigrants, Brown is calling on the federal government to activate the program statewide, and he wants Patrick to help facilitate its expansion.

Under Secure Communities, the FBI shares its fingerprint files with US immigration authorities in an effort to identify detainees who are in the country illegally and to target many of them for deportation. The Obama administration initially asked states to sign agreements to join Secure Communities, but after some governors, including Patrick, criticized the program, the administration reversed course and announced plans to implement the program on its own.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at a hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security Committee that states are no longer asked to participate in Secure Communities.

The agency hopes to have the program implemented in every jurisdiction in the country by fiscal 2013, which begins at the federal level on Oct. 1, 2012, said Napolitano.

Currently, she said, Secure Communities is operational in 1,200 jurisdictions across the country. She was responding to a question from Brown about governors who have been reluctant to support Secure Communities.

“How do you deal with states - for example, my state - where you have a governor or others who don’t support it?’’ Brown asked. “Is there a way to convince them or cajole them or incentivize them to really get with the program, so to speak?

The support of state and local governments is helpful, though not required, Napolitano said.

A spokesman for Patrick said officials in Massachusetts already share all the fingerprint data collected by State Police and communities across the state with federal authorities.

“As Senator Brown should be aware, in August the Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to the nation’s governors announcing that states have no role whatsoever as relates to whether or not to implement the federal Secure Communities program,’’ said spokesman Alex Goldstein. “Memoranda of agreement are no longer required or sought by the federal government from individual states or jurisdictions in order for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate and implement the program, and previously signed agreements have been terminated by the federal government.’’

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