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D.C. Council To Debate Secure Communities Program

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By Jessica Gould

A week after the Obama Administration filed suit against Arizona over its strict immigration law, legislators in the District plan to debate an initiative that could hit closer to home.

In November, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier signed onto a program called Secure Communities. Under the program, D.C. police could enter the fingerprints of people they arrest into a federal database so that authorities could identify and possibly deport illegal immigrants.

But local legislators worry the program could lead to racial profiling and discourage some people from reporting crimes.

"Certainly we want to have a secure community," says D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson. "Especially Washington, D.C. We don’t need to have terrorists who are here and endangering public safety because of the federal presence." "On the other hand, as I said, I don’t think we should be getting into federal immigration issues."

In May, Mendelson introduced a bill prohibiting participation in the program. Since then, the police say, the program has been on hold.

Mendelson is expected to convene a hearing on secure communities on Monday.

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