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State bill seeks to limit federal fingerprint program

  • From left, Myisha Areloano, Adrian James, Jahel Campos, David Vuenrostro, and Antonio Cabrera camp outside of the Obama Campaign Headquarters in Culver City, Calif. in protest of President Obama's immigration policiesand in hopes of getting him to pass an executive order to halt discretionary deportation on Friday, June 16, 2012. President Obama eased enforcement of immigration laws Friday, offering a chance for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work. Immediately embraced by Hispanics, the extraordinary step touched off an election-year confrontation with congressional Republicans. ((AP Photo/Grant Hindsley))

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would pull back California's participation in President Barack Obama's flagship immigration enforcement program is gaining momentum a week after Obama halted the deportation of young illegal immigrants.

A key policy committee recently approved legislation that would limit the state's participation in Secure Communities, a federal fingerprinting program that calls for local jails to give immigration officials arrestees' fingerprints and to hold those who are deemed to be in the United States illegally.

AB1081 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano would prohibit law enforcement from keeping people who have not been convicted of a serious felony in jail only for immigration enforcement reasons. The bill now moves to its final committee.

His office says it would be the first statewide policy of its kind.

"Under the guise of acting for homeland security, the program has been very duplicitous," said the San Francisco Democratic lawmaker. "The immigrant rights community and many people throughout the nation are very upset by what they see as racial profiling, indiscriminant sweeps, and to add insult to injury, if a person is detained by a community, the community pays for the incarceration."

Under the program, local law enforcement officers submit fingerprints of all arrestees to federal officials for a check of immigration status. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can then place a "hold" on the suspect and ask the local agency to detain them until ICE agents can take custody.

The program was sold as a way to find and detain illegal immigrants who are also criminals. But critics say that many of those being deported through the system have never been convicted of serious crimes.

Secure Communities has resulted in the deportation of tens of thousands of people, with more than a third of those coming from California. That's drawn fire from immigrant and civil liberties advocates around the country.

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