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D.C. Council Trying To Limit Secure Communities

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Immigrants rights activists marching against the implementation of Secure Communities in August.
Armando Trull
Immigrants rights activists marching against the implementation of Secure Communities in August.

Lawmakers in the District are considering ways to limit the city’s participation in Secure Communities. The national program requires local jurisdictions to share arrest information, including fingerprint data, with federal immigration authorities. A measure introduced today at the D.C. Council, and co-sponsored by all 13 members, would limit the amount of time the city would hold suspected undocumented immigrants at the local jail on what are known as “civil detainers”.

These are requests from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to hold an individual at the jail after he or she has been arrested, booked and is otherwise free to go. Under Secure Communities, jails send fingerprint data to ICE databases. If there is a “hit”, a detainer will be issued.

Typically, jurisdictions will hold someone on a civil detainer for 48 hours after their arrest. If ICE doesn’t pick the person up, he or she is free to go.

The D.C. Council proposal would mandate that these individuals be released after 24 hours -- unless they have been arrested for a violent crime. The measure follows an earlier order this year by Mayor Vincent Gray, saying law enforcement officers in D.C. are not allowed to ask suspects about their immigration status.

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