A longtime Arlington County Board member shakes up Virginia politics by announcing plans to step away. Uncertainty clouds the future for the chief of one of Maryland's treasured public school systems. And the field of candidates narrows in D.C.'s special elections looming in the spring.
Last month, the Montgomery County Council passed a resolution expressing concerns with the federal program known as Secure Communities. The program, already operating in some parts of our region, requires local police to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We look at how Secure Communities works, how various local jurisdictions are responding, and whether all will be required to comply.
- Stan Barry Fairfax County Sheriff
- Michael Laris Reporter for The Washington Post
- Nancy Navarro Montgomery County Council (D-District 4)
- Ana Sol Gutierrez Maryland State Delegate (D- Dist. 18, Montgomery County); former member of Montgomery County Board of Education
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, the U.S. has resumed the deportation of Haitians with criminal records. Some say given Haiti's chaos and cholera epidemic, that's cruel and unusual punishment. But first, local officials are often caught in the crossfire when it comes to fighting illegal immigration, and a controversial federal program known as Secure Communities which provides immigration and customs enforcement, or ICE, with information about the immigration status of arrested people is at the heart of the controversy.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILast month, the Montgomery County Council passed a resolution saying that county public safety officials, quoting here, "should work closely with ICE to ensure that the program is implemented consistent with its stated purpose and goals." This language masks the sentiment that, perhaps in places where it's already operating, the Secure Communities program is having unintended consequences. In fact, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has so many reservations that he's decided to terminate the program in his state. Here to discuss the program and its impact in our region is Stan Barry. He is the sheriff of Fairfax County. His office partners with immigration and customs enforcement to administer the securities community program -- the Secure Communities program in their county. Sheriff Barry, thank you for joining us.
SHERIFF STAN BARRYThank you, Kojo. Good to be here.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Ana Sol Gutierrez. She's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing Montgomery County's District 18. Ana Sol, good to see you again.
MS. ANA SOL GUTIERREZIt's a pleasure as always.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Michael Laris. He's a reporter with The Washington Post who has been covering the Secure Communities program. Michael Laris, thank you for joining us.
MR. MICHAEL LARISGreat to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850. If you live in Fairfax County, Arlington, Prince George's County or anywhere else that Secure Communities is in place, we'd like to hear from you. How effective do you think the program has been? 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there, or simply send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Sheriff Barry, Fairfax County was the first jurisdiction in the Washington area to adopt the Secure Communities program, how does it operate, and what value does it have for Fairfax County?
BARRYIt operates by screening all of fingerprints of anyone who's fingerprinted that's arrested in Fairfax County, and they screen those through the ICE database to find anybody who's in the country illegally. And the value to us is that it prevents us from having to go into the community or having to operate that function ourselves with county money in the jail, and that's what had happened across the country was there was great pressure on the federal government to take some action on illegal immigration. And since they weren't taking action, that pressure started to become evident at the local level, on local politicians and local law enforcement. And that's when local police departments and sheriff's offices started entering into the 287 (g) program, which is where you are actually deputized to enforce immigration laws.
BARRYAnd some of the police departments were going into the community, and some of the sheriff's offices were screening people in the jails and detention centers, and that was, of course, costing local communities money. And it was also, in a lot of people's opinion, putting up a wall between the community and the local law enforcement that might prevent effective law enforcement in the community. So I think that's the benefit of Secure Communities is it doesn't cost the local taxpayers any money, and it doesn't create a situation where the local authorities are enforcing the immigration laws.
NNAMDISo if the local authorities are not enforcing the immigration laws on the Secure Communities, technically, the local authorities are merely passing on information to the federal government?
NNAMDIMichael Laris, what have been some side effects of the Secure Communities program in places like maybe Fairfax or Prince George's County?
LARISWell, what's interesting, I think, about this whole debate in the Washington region is that the region shows, I think, what proponents would say the good sides of this program are and also what detractors point out are some of the problems. You're asking about some of the problems. In Prince George's County, there have been cases of people doing very, very minor -- having very, very minor sort of infractions, even things that are not illegal at all, and then, they get wrapped up in the program. And then, you have situations that are, you know, described by the people involved, you know, that could be quite tragic.
LARISPeople that are going to have to leave their homes here and go back to -- in one case of a woman I spoke with, she's going to voluntarily, now that she's been sort of caught up in all of this, head back to Guatemala. She was here illegally. She's going to Guatemala. She's going to see if she can come back legally. But what that means is she's going to leave her three kids here with their father while she's gone. I mean, that's obviously a wrenching situation. So it really is interesting. Meanwhile in places like Fairfax, there have been some horrendous cases, you know, where this program, the proponents say, really could do some good. It could prevent really bad people from going back onto the streets, so that's sort of the dichotomy here.
NNAMDII'm afraid I don't quite understand how you get caught up in the program if you haven't been accused of doing anything illegal.
LARISLet me give you this one example because it helped me sort of follow it as well. In the case that I was just mentioning, the woman from Guatemala, her name is Florinda Lorenzo. She was selling phone cards out of her home in Langley Park. She didn't have the proper permits, but she wasn't, you know, some sort of terrible person. She just didn't have the right permits. Somehow in the course, the police came and sort of addressed her about this phone card issue. What then happened was that her name through the Secure Communities program ended up getting -- making its way to ICE. ICE says, hey, she's not here legally. Then, they end up coming after her and starting deportation proceedings, and that's where things stand now.
LARISShe -- in the next -- within the next two months, she's going to quote unquote "voluntarily leave." That way it can prevent it from becoming even harder for her to come back. Do you...
NNAMDII do understand what you're saying. But, Sheriff Barry, just on a point of clarification, this woman it appears may have violated some regulations in Fairfax County...
LARISIn Prince George's County is where it happened.
NNAMDIIt was in Prince George's County?
LARISIt was. It was.
NNAMDIOh, I'm sorry.
NNAMDIBut if in fact she had violated regulations in the county, how would her name end up in the system, so to speak, if she was not actually arrested?
BARRYI can't speak specifically to...
BARRY...Prince George's County, but I can tell you about Fairfax. And the only way that you will get screened by immigrations in Fairfax is if you're actually arrested, brought to the detention center and fingerprinted. So you have to actually appear before a magistrate who would find probable cause that you committed a crime and be committed to jail before you'd be screen in Fairfax. So you would not be able to be screened in Fairfax by violating a regulation or not having permits.
NNAMDIAna Sol Gutierrez, the Secure Communities seemed to have -- well, first and foremost, what is your concern about the Secure Communities program?
GUTIERREZOh, my. (laugh) Do we have...
NNAMDIYour primary concerns.
GUTIERREZDo we have a full day? Well, my primary concern is that, indeed, it appears to be a program that has run amuck, as I say. I think that ICE is using Secure Communities in a way to really cast a very broad, broad net and looking for immigrants that are not any part of that level one, two or three that Secure Communities is supposed to be addressing. And our concern is felt in our communities through fear and through, really, a breaking of that bond of trust that local police officers have worked so long to maintain. There is a need for individuals to trust that they can go to the police and provide information if necessary for crimes committed, but in some cases, we see more and more that victims of domestic violence have been caught up into this wide net that has been cast.
GUTIERREZIn the case of the woman with the telephone cards, there's not even a violation for that. The permitting or the licensing is of someone that is going to set up shop and going to be in a commercial enterprise. The telephone cards are $2 cards that you can buy for two or $5, and, you know, it's used very much within the immigrant community for getting low-cost telephone calls back home. So, to me, her case and many, many others that we've seen are a real concern. That generally, as a, I guess, a representative of a large immigrant community in Montgomery County, I do hear and understand what it is causing.
GUTIERREZBut as a state legislator, I also am very much concerned about what Secure Communities is doing to federalism, that separation and that constitutional difference of what is a federal role, an appropriate federal role and what's an appropriate state role. And I am now looking and talking with the governor's office to make sure that state laws are not being violated or ignored in this massive aggressive effort that we've seen in Secure Communities to come down to the local level.
NNAMDIOn a technical point, Michael Laris, explain for our listening audience what are level one, level two and level three offenses.
LARISOh, boy, I might defer to sheriff on this one.
NNAMDIDefer to Sheriff Barry on this. OK, Sheriff Barry, level one, level two, level three?
BARRYI don't have the specific breakdown of the crimes, but level one are the very serious crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and then all the way down to level three which would be misdemeanor crimes, DWI and things of that nature. But ICE has the specific breakdown of all the different offenses, but we don't really focus on that because we don't classify them into the different levels. That's all done by ICE.
GUTIERREZBut if I can interrupt, the operative word in the ICE statement of the purpose is that these are convictions for all of these different crimes, level one, two or three. Now, what they are asking is for anyone who was arrested. It means that anybody who was brought in. And unfortunately, that's where we're beginning to see the huge problem where racial profiling is -- can be very much part of why a person is picked up, and there is no way that that can be transparent and that we can ensure that that is not happening. ICE cannot make that transparent.
NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking with Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro. She's a Democrat representing District 4. But you can still call us. If you've already called 800-433-8850, stay on the line. We still have a few lines open, so you can still call that number or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the Federal Secure Communities program and local communities. We're talking with Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez. She's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing Montgomery County's District 18. Michael Laris is a reporter who's been covering the Secure Communities program for The Washington Post. And Stan Barry is the sheriff of Fairfax County. He's office partners with immigration and customs enforcement to administer the Secure Communities program in that county.
NNAMDIWe invited the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to join us on the broadcast. They have not responded so far. Anyway, you can never tell when we might get a phone call. Also joining us now by telephone is Nancy Navarro. She's a Montgomery County councilmember, a Democrat representing District 4. Councilmember Navarro, thank you for joining us.
MS. NANCY NAVARROThank you very much, Kojo, for having me.
NNAMDIMontgomery County received a notice from ICE that the county will have to comply with Secure Communities by September of this year. Is it clear what they are asking law enforcement to do?
NAVARROWell, Kojo, I guess, you know, as I was listening to your guests describe this program, it is obviously very apparent that it is not clear exactly what jurisdictions have to do. I just want to point out that in 2009, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services entered into the memorandum of agreement, you know, the purpose, specifically refers to the fact that this is all about identifying, detaining and removing from the United States aliens who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal.
NAVARROAnd that already, you know, those are goals that Montgomery County already has in place. We have policies so that, you know, if somebody is arrested for a violent crime and for weapons violation that their names are actually sent to the Department of Homeland Security. And in addition, once a week, the corrections department submits to ICE a list of every foreign national in its custody. So, in essence, Montgomery County, it's already enjoying what this program says it's supposed to do, but the concern is, really, the data that we have seen, you know, throughout other jurisdictions nationally, where, in reality, very high percentages of the people who are deported are non-criminals.
NAVARROThat is a real concern for Montgomery County because we do have such a large percentage of immigrants. You know, almost, I mean, 40 percent of all Latinos in the State of Maryland reside in Montgomery County. And as it was mentioned before, our law enforcement officials locally have worked really hard to make sure that the trust between the community and the police department and other officials that it's always, you know, enhanced. And so the concern...
NNAMDIBefore you get to that, I'd like to bring in Sheriff Barry for a second to ask him what effects have you seen about the relationship between your department and the community since you started implementing the secure communities initiative?
BARRYI haven't seen any ill effects, and I haven't heard any from the police department that operates in the county either. I think there's a differentiation between the ICE enforcing the immigration laws and then us arresting people for committing crimes.
NNAMDIBack to you, Councilmember Nancy Navarro. You were the chief sponsor of a resolution in the Montgomery County Council opposing Secure Communities. Tell us about that. And you heard Delegate Gutierrez express her concerns. What are yours?
NAVARROWell, my concerns are basically that that we do value our public safety and that's paramount, but we are concerned about the uneven implementation of this program nationally. And what we have seen, as I said, described by, you know, studies and data from Homeland Security and ICE is that, in many jurisdictions, this has really become a de facto deportation program, which is another issue, you know, if specifically, if the purpose and the goals of this Secure Communities program is to be a de facto deportation program, and if we were supposed to utilize our local law enforcement resources to then become de facto officials for ICE, that's a totally different conversation.
NAVARROAnd so, to me, that's why it was important to just join all these other jurisdictions in stating, you know, the real concerns about the uneven implementation of this program. Montgomery County is already doing and it's already making sure that violent criminals and, you know, people that are possessing weapons in unauthorized fashion, et cetera, we're already taking care of that. And so this, you know, myth that it just means that, you know, public officials are against making sure that our communities are safe is completely untrue.
NAVARROThe issue here -- it's truly the uneven implementation, and there will be major mistrust in the communities. You know, once the word is out, then that will work against our law enforcement officials because people will, frankly, not feel, you know, comfortable collaborating with law enforcement officials.
NNAMDIMichael Laris, in your reporting, have you seen any evidence of that, what Councilmember Navarro is talking about, people not wanting to cooperate with law enforcement authorities because they feel it can ultimately result in their own deportation even if they have to be -- even if they happen to be simply reporting a crime?
LARISThere's some anecdotal evidence of that just in terms of people saying that in their communities, they sense that this is gonna be a problem. I haven't seen it in a broad base, sort of, independent fashion on my own, but just listening to the conversation so far, I do wanna, sort of, introduce the idea from what we've gleaned from ICE's perspective on this. Yes, it's true that Montgomery County routinely sends in the names of people that are foreign born and in the -- for instance, in the Montgomery County Jail or who have been charged with a violent crime or a gun crime.
LARISThe difference, according to ICE's perspective, is that they are sending, under this program, an actual fingerprint. So anybody that's dealt with databases and the trouble of typing in someone's name and get a space wrong, suddenly you're missing someone important -- potentially, what I think ICE is saying, according to their own documents, is it is better for general security, it is better for, you know, catching people that have done bad things to actually send in a fingerprint.
LARISSo, also, sort of related to that, right now, in Montgomery County, the jail system will send a fingerprint of, you know, someone in their custody. That will go and be run against the FBI's systems. What I think, you know, ICE is doing is saying, hey, it's at the FBI anyway. We're just gonna move that fingerprint, that digital fingerprint over to the immigration system, see if there's any -- see if there are any problems.
NNAMDIDelegate Gutierrez, what's wrong with that?
GUTIERREZWell, first of all...
NNAMDIWhere should you start is what you wanna say, right?
GUTIERREZI wanna start at the bigger issue and go to the heart of where ICE is -- has this authority. It's really being questioned by Congress, and we raised the issue to the president. The Hispanic Congressional Caucus has said this is a very flawed system. You need to review where it's getting the authority to do what it's doing and now to even take a more aggressive step of saying this is not optional. There's been a lot of confusion about opting in, opting out. ICE had said, yes, localities can opt out. And slowly but surely, we've seen a complete change.
NNAMDIWhat's the penalty now if localities opt out?
GUTIERREZThey're not clear. They were not stating. There are no regulations for this program. They've never gone through the process of rulemaking, and so there's no place that you can look for where the legality is in where the limits of its authority are. That's a real key question because they are then running amok, as I say. They extend their authority even into areas that I am looking to question. For example, not every crime requires a fingerprint. If you're detained for a traffic violation, you don't get fingerprinted.
GUTIERREZIf you're detained, like this young woman was, for a non-charge -- we've seen other cases in Prince George's County where a woman receives a letter to appear at a local police station because she's being accused of having a false driver's license. She gets the letter sent to another address, but with her name on it. And so, she shows it to her husband. She says this is ridiculous. We don't even own a car. I don't even know how to drive. I go in bicycles. And he says, let's go to the police station. They go -- they talked to the commissioner. And the commissioner, as described in Fairfax, says, no, this is a no-charge, doesn't even process it. But while she's there, she gets fingerprinted. Now, that is where we really, I think, have to look...
GUTIERREZ...to see what's happening with law enforcement.
NNAMDI...brings me to this, Sheriff Barry, as though according to the records at the end of 2010, under the Secure Communities program in Fairfax County, some 357 people had been deported. Eighty-three of those people had committed level-one offenses. What do we know about those other 274 people?
BARRYThose are all identified by ICE, so we don't have -- in Fairfax, we don't track exactly what they are charged with. We know that they've removed 1,700 totaled in the two years since they've started in Fairfax. Whether all of those have been deported or not, I don't know, but I would like to speak to the fingerprinting issue, which is...
BARRY...it's not a question of not doing anything. We had already been mandated in Virginia that we had to check for their legal status. So this was causing deputies to have to enter things manually. And now, that's all done by fingerprint and computer. So it has eased the manpower problem that we're having before. So there was great pressure from the community to do something about criminals who were in this country illegally, and so local law enforcement was having to absorb those duties. So this is really shifting it back to a federal issue, which is where it should have been in the entire time.
NNAMDIHave you observed at all, in Fairfax County, any indications that the implementation of Secure Communities has led to fear within the immigrant community or to a lack of cooperation on reporting of crimes, anything like that?
BARRYNo. As we've said before, I've heard anecdotal evidence that people believed that will happen, but I haven't heard any actual evidence that that's happened.
NNAMDIAllow me to go to the telephones. Here is Julia in Washington. Julia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JULIAThank you, Kojo. I am calling because I'm an immigration lawyer, and I deal with this issue daily. I deal with low-income Hispanic clients. And in my opinion, the local officers should not be doing the job of federal agencies. Violating a county or city or state regulations should not be part of Secure Communities systems unless someone is actually convicted. I have a client that had a case pending with immigration and was gonna get their green card, but he wasn't wearing any seatbelt when he went to the beach in Ocean City. They got stopped for not wearing a seatbelt.
JULIAPolice took that man, didn't even -- they dropped the charges against them, but they held him in detention until I physically came to pick him up and put them in ICE detention. So now, the mother had to pay thousands of dollars in bond to ICE for his release. He's never committed a crime before. He was a teen. She feared for him. And now they're paying more money to do this case in court. And when an immigrant is in court proceedings, it is deportation proceedings. And this teen had his green card application already scheduled for adjudication with immigration the same month he got arrested. And those charges were dropped. He was never convicted. I would also like to state that...
NNAMDIWas he deported?
JULIANo. We're trying to -- he shouldn't be because he has no convictions, but we're going now through a lengthy process with the immigration court, which is actually overburdened with cases and backlogged by one to four years depending on the state you're in.
JULIASo it's something that could've been resolved that same month that we arrested. And we tried to avoid it. We tried to contact all ICE agencies. We tried to contact all DHS attorneys to avoid, you know, this case getting more complicated than it should and burdening the system more when there's other more serious cases to attend to.
JULIAAnd in Illinois -- I'm sorry -- in Illinois, the governor wants to not have Secured Community.
NNAMDIWe mentioned that earlier, yeah.
JULIAYes. And so he says that a third of those deported have not been convicted. And I'm personally aware of the same happening in Virginia and Maryland. People who have just been picked up for something, charges later dropped, no criminal background and -- but they have no way to adjust their status here, so they can't remain here because ICE gets contacted under Secured Communities. They get deported. And finally...
JULIA...please. I'm sorry. It's very important. You keep asking the sheriff about what they know, the ramification this has had and people reporting. The police, the sheriffs will not know this. I have -- yesterday had someone in my office because a client brought her friend who fears her husband because of domestic violence. But she fears to call the police because she doesn't have her papers yet. So I know personally of women not contacting the police...
NNAMDIAnd that's one of the things...
JULIA...and they're victims of domestic violence.
NNAMDIThat's one of the things I've been reading, Julia. But you know what ICE says? ICE says that it has amended to remove people who are in the country illegally regardless of whether they have been found guilty of a crime or not, which brings me to our next caller, Maurice, in Rockville, Md. Maurice, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MAURICEYeah, Kojo. Because the point you just made is what I -- you know, I'm listening to the show and listening to everyone. I tend to -- I never hear the point addressed as if there's a net picking up a whole bunch of innocent people and putting them out of the country, people who are not -- who have -- may not have committed a crime here at this particular point in time, and ICE simplifies as Michael does. But the fact that you get away with breaking the law for a few years and then we call these gut-wrenching things when you get caught for doing it, and you're deported.
MAURICEIf they were deporting American citizens or innocent people, I could understand it. But the point you just made about ICE having a mandate to remove people who are illegally in this country, and I never hear it addressed by anyone who gets into these things about sympathy and about how mistrust and how this was wrong. They never deal with the fact that these people are truly innocent. Unfortunately, regardless with circumstance, they're not innocent because they've broken the laws of our country.
NNAMDIAna Sol Gutierrez.
GUTIERREZThat's exactly the point. They do not have a mandate. There is no law that authorizes or grants them or tells ICE that they need to be doing what they're doing. Immigration law is very complicated. And I think we need to stop making it a simplicity statement that puts everybody into the same box, saying, oh, you broke the law. You have to get -- be deported. It doesn't work like that. There are 123 different visa statuses by which people can be legally in this country. It's called being in-status or out of status. Status is something that can change. Immigration laws allow people to go from being a student, and before, if they got a job, they could be a legal permanent resident.
GUTIERREZA lot of the broken system that we're now having to live with is a consequence of no longer having the options and the opportunities to change status as readily as you could before. So people who have been here, have overstayed their visas are working, have a family, have mixed families, as we saw in The Washington Post article today, where U.S. citizen children, U.S. citizen parents are getting split apart through something as simple as not wearing a seatbelt. That cannot be the way that we want to run our country.
GUTIERREZAnd I have to say, as a state legislator, we are the ones that deal with the human beings, with the families, with the kids in school, with all the problems, the consequences that if we do not make the necessary changes at the federal level, at least at the local level, we should not be exacerbating the difficulties that these individual families are having.
NAVARROKojo, if I could just add, I think that the caller makes a very valid point, except that the issue here is that the goals of this particular program Secure Communities is very -- they're very clear that this is all about removing criminal aliens by focusing the efforts from the most dangerous and violent offenders. And that's where it has become this sort of ad hoc program with no real, you know, guidelines and with uneven implementation nationally. And so, from my perspective, we just need to be clear. It's a program. It comes to a local jurisdiction as imposed by the federal government. It should have clear guidelines. It should have stated purposes and goals.
NAVARROAnd we should not just pretend that it's something that it's not, because then it puts our local law enforcement officials in a very strange, you know, position, and it does send a widespread message to the community. I would agree with the other caller that said that, you know, perhaps, the local law enforcement officials, you know, they're not in the best position to know whether these communities are feeling like, you know, they're under siege to a certain degree, because this is not something that they're gonna go express officially to, you know, to the police department. But, you know, but it is there.
NAVARROAnd so to me, that's the basic principle that if this is to be a widespread deportation program, then it should be called that, and it should be, you know, discussed as such and, you know, and it should be stated that these are the goals, not that it supposed to just be about public safety from the most -- to remove the most -- violent criminals.
NNAMDIMichael Laris, racial profiling is a periodic concern when talking about programs related to deportations. In your reporting, has that issue been raised significantly and what evidence is there for or against the notion that this leads to racial profiling?
LARISWell, what ICE has said is that having a sort of an automatic system in which fingerprints get sent through is a way to avoid just such profiling. I mean, I think the sheriff earlier spoke of these other programs. There's another federal program that essentially deputizes local authorities. In that case, there's certainly...
NNAMDI287 (g), right.
LARISYeah. There certainly are people that have raised questions about whether or not the people getting pulled over and having their statuses checked are indeed being profiled. I mean, that certainly has been an issue. I think what you're hearing, though, in this entire conversation is the fact that this Secure Communities program really is sort of in the middle of the broader immigration debate the Obama administration is trying to crack down and deport more people, at the same time they are also trying to change the immigration laws. So this program is sort of caught in the middle of those sort of countervailing political forces.
NNAMDISheriff Barry, the way Fairfax County work, everybody jailed is screened and fingerprinted. Have you received any complaints about racial profiling from Fairfax County residents?
BARRYNo. In fact, I would tack on to Michael's point, which is it actually takes us out of the middle of that, because the position we were put in before was that we had to -- we were obligated to investigate anyone that we believed was in the country illegally and then send the information to immigration. And that, of course, could lead to people saying there was racial profiling involved. Now we don't do any of that. We ask if they're in the country illegally. If they say, yes, we just fingerprint them and let ICE take care of it. The only time we get involved is if they tell us that specifically they're in the country illegally.
NNAMDIHere is Steve in Ashton, Md. Steve, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEVEHow do you do? I just want to register the fact that I find it a little offensive that some people love federalism when it has to do with certain social programs and hate it when it has to do with immigration. If you have a strong federal government then it's going to enforce its law. If you want a weak federal government then you may not get health care. So you got to have one or the other. And I find it particularly offensive with the Maryland representative, Ms. Navarro, because I've heard her speak on those other issues. Thank you.
NNAMDIThe separation, if you will, between federal and local authority, you can't have it both ways says our caller, Councilmember Navarro.
NAVARROI don't know if maybe he meant delegate...
NAVARRO... (laugh) Gutierrez.
NNAMDII thought that's who he was going to say.
NAVARROI know we're all the same since we're Latina, but actually she said Maryland.
GUTIERREZWe all look alike.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to have Delegate Gutierrez say that because you were the one who are talking about the distinction between the federal role and the local role.
GUTIERREZWell, the constitution is very clear on this. It grants the federal government certain rights and authorities in which to make laws, and anything that is not mentioned there is a state function. As a legislator, we see that we have to make the laws that rule the state of Maryland from education, transportation to criminal and civil laws. So that is the separation that I don't think is optional. And this is where there are real key problems with what's happening with Secure Communities. There's a GAL report into how it's being implemented.
GUTIERREZWe need for Homeland Security to look at how is this program actually being implemented, how -- where is its authority? Do we need regulations? Do we need to clarify? I mean, it's irresponsible, in my mind, for a federal agency to have something that is impacting the lives of so many, that's having such incredible consequences on the lives of families, of kids and to say, no, we're just gonna continue doing what we're doing.
NNAMDIIndeed. We're running out of time, very quickly. But, Michael Laris, it's my understanding that immigrations and customs enforcement has told you, how likely does it seem that federal officials fight to keep security -- Secure Communities in place even when locals don't want it? Apparently, they've indicated to you that they will fight to keep it in place.
LARISYeah. They've said flatly, it's not an opt-in or opt-out program. It means we're coming is kind of what they've said pretty clearly. And again, you know, a lot of law enforcement agencies feel a lot of pressure to make sure they're screening fingerprints for, you know, all sorts of violent crimes. So if they're gonna send those fingerprints in to the federal government, you are asking earlier what are the penalties.
LARISWell, I mean, the issue is, if you're gonna send in a fingerprint to check and see if someone is a murderer, they're gonna have the fingerprint. And what they're saying is we're gonna use it for other purposes and you don't have a choice.
NNAMDIAnd you can't opt out?
LARISThat's what they've said.
NNAMDIWell, Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez would like to opt out. She is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing Montgomery County's District 18. Thank you so much for joining us.
GUTIERREZThank you, Kojo. A valuable, valuable discussion for our community.
NNAMDIAnd Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Montgomery County has actually introduced a measure to opt out of this. Councilmember Navarro, thank you for joining us.
NAVARROThank you for having me, Kojo. Appreciate it.
NNAMDIMichael Laris is a reporter. He's been covering the Secure Communities program for The Washington Post. Michael, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd Stan Barry is the sheriff of Fairfax County. His office partners with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to administer the securities -- Secure Communities program in that county. Sheriff Barry, thank you for joining us.
BARRYThank you, Kojo. Pleasure to be here.
NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. When we come back, deportations to Haiti have been resumed. Some people say with the kind of chaos and a cholera epidemic in Haiti, that's cruel and unusual punishment even though the individuals being deported have reportedly been convicted of crimes. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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