Immigration activists protested outside a Homeland Security task force meeting on Secure Communities Aug. 24.
The Secure Communities program is a federal immigration enforcement program that aims to identify and deport undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to public safety. But Arlington County and the District have tried to "opt out" of the program for fear it will lead to racial profiling. Now ICE is trying to make the Secure Communities program more acceptable.
Secure Communities is a mandate that allows the FBI to share the fingerprints of anyone arrested by local police with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
At a rally outside a Homeland Security task force meeting in Arlington, Va. Wednesday night, several hundred protesters yell in Spanish, "Listen up Obama, we're in the fight."
Another chant: "Hey Obama, don't deport my mama."
That underscores the main criticism against the Secure Communities program -- that people arrested for minor offenses wind up facing deportation.
The Obama Administration recently issued a policy decision stating that immigration courts will prioritize the 300,000 outstanding deportation cases to focus on violent offenders. But immigration activists are still looking for the complete cancellation of Secure Communities.
Lenny Gonzalez, with the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, focuses on the issue during her testimony at the hearing before the task force.
"Tell me how can I get out of this program," she says. "We don't need it. We don't want it."
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez sits on the Homeland Security panel, which is looking at ways to improve how the program is implemented.
"Yes, there's been some errors. That's understandable. That's why we're here, to take care of the errors," she says. "But who does not want to come to live in a better community?"
The Department of Homeland Security says by 2013 the Secure Communities program will be fully deployed and the fingerprints of anyone arrested anywhere in the us will be checked against a database at the federal immigration office.