Federal government to launch Secure Communities in Massachusetts

The entrance to the Dukes County Jail in Edgartown.
File photo by Ralph Stewart

The entrance to the Dukes County Jail in Edgartown.

The federal government will launch Secure Communities, on Tuesday May 15 in Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick and immigration advocates oppose the immigration enforcement program.

Secure Communities allows local authorities to immediately share information, including fingerprints, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The implementation will not change the way law enforcement on Martha’s Vineyard handles arrests. The Dukes County Sheriff’s Department handles booking procedures for all Island police departments.

“We’ll do everything identically, the way we have been for years,” Sheriff Michael McCormack said. “We take the fingerprints of everybody who gets arrested. Those fingerprints are forwarded to State Police. They forward them to the FBI. Now the FBI is going to be sharing them with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

State officials said their procedures will not change either.

“Implementation of the program will have no practical effect on how we handle fingerprints and information sharing here,” Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan said in a statement. “We already send all fingerprints to the federal government, and have been doing so for years. That practice will continue so we can protect public safety and meet our local law enforcement needs.”

Governor Patrick resisted implementation. He argued that Secure Communities runs the risk of inadvertently netting immigrants who present no public safety threat and that the program could promote profiling.

Although the Department of Homeland Security acknowledge problems in the initial roll-out of the program, federal officials say it has been revamped to target immigrants with criminal records.

The federal government plans to implement Secure Communities in every state by next year.