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D.C. Immigrant Rights Activists Voice Concerns About Federal Program

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By Jessica Gould

In November, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier signed onto a federal program called Secure Communities. But some immigrant-rights activists say the program could make their communities less secure.

Juan Carlos Ruiz is an organizer with the Latino Federation of Greater Washington. He spent the weekend grilling chicken at a block party in Northwest, D.C. But soon, he says, he plans to grill city officials about the Secure Communities program.

"We believe that the program will directly target the Latino community in the United States and especially in Washington, D.C.," says Ruiz.

Under Secure Communities, D.C. police would share fingerprints of people arrested for certain crimes with the Department of Homeland Security. Authorities could then use that information to identify, and possibly deport, illegal immigrants.

Matthew Bromeland is Special Assistant to D.C. Police Chief Lanier. He says the goal is to boost national security while making D.C. streets safer.

"In its basic forms it would certainly help in removing some serious criminals from the streets," says Bromeland. "It also closes a gap in the information sharing of law enforcement agencies."

But Ruiz says the program would discourage some people from reporting crimes.

"We will be hiding because we will be afraid of what the police will do," he says.

In May, D.C. Council introduced legislation blocking participation in the program. Since then, police say, the program has been on hold. The council is scheduled to hold a hearing on Secure Communities today.

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