Amherst, Massachusetts rejects "Secure Communities"

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) - Some Amherst town meeting members are calling a federal initiative an intrusion.

They are planning to discuss the Secure Communities initiative during a town meeting Monday night.

The federally sponsored program cross-checks fingerprints with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

The targeted program is aimed at identifying and removing criminal aliens who have been arrested for crimes and are in the country illegally.  However, some Amherst town meeting members say it puts their municipal independence at risk and are asking community members to take a stand.

Todd Felton of Amherst told 22News, "I think in principle if the town can take a stand on it, it's nice to take a stand on these issues from time to time in a non-bonding way."

According to David Rosoff of Easthampton, "Laws like these are just a way of ingraining racism deeper into the culture and persecuting people who are poor more. What we need to do is find a way for immigrants to become legal."

ICE officials told 22News they are not asking local police departments to enforce immigration law and the sharing of information is on a case by case basis.  ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein says when a person is booked, their prints are automatically scanned through the FBI's database; consequently the FBI will then send a criminal history to local law enforcement.  Feinstein says Secure Communities only facilitates the sharing of information with the FBI, a federal partner of the Department of Homeland Security; not local law enforcement.  

An April 27th ICE report says, "Secure Communities is mandatory in that, once the information-sharing capability is activated for a jurisdiction, the fingerprints that state and local law enforcement voluntarily submit to the FBI for criminal justice purposes to be checked against the Department of Justice's biometric identification system for criminal history records, are automatically sent to Department of Homeland Security’s biometric system to check against its immigration and law enforcement records."

The secure communities program was espoused by Massachusetts as a state law on May 15th.  But Amherst town meeting members are looking for support on a resolution that will mandate municipal employees to not "monitor, stop or detain a person for the purpose of determining their immigration status."

The meeting starts at 7pm at the Amherst Regional Middle School.