The New York City Police Department, along with other local police departments across the state, will activate the controversial federal Secure Communities program next week, despite objections from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials.

New York City joins the state's Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties in implementing the program, which feeds fingerprint information from local police departments to the Department of Homeland Security  (DHS) through the FBI.

Gov. Cuomo withdrew New York from the program last June, saying that it failed to meet its goal to “deport serious felons.”  

However despite initially characterizing the program as voluntary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said last year that states could not opt-out of the program and that it must be implemented across the country by 2013.

I am deeply troubled by and have always opposed the implementation of Secure Communities in New York City.

- New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

“Secure Communities has proven to be the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach of the past and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators,” an ICE spokesman said in a statement.

Both public officials and immigration rights activists have criticized the program and expressed disappointment in its implementation countrywide.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that it will harm too many people charged with low-level offenses and make immigrants hesitant to cooperate with police or report crimes.

“I am deeply troubled by and have always opposed the implementation of Secure Communities in New York City,” said Quinn. “I do not want this implemented and I oppose any government move to force New York City to abide by this unfair policy.”

ICE states that the Secure Communities program has removed over 135,000 convicted criminal aliens including over 49,000 convicted of major violent offenses like murder, rape and child abuse.

Immigration rights activists also argue that the program disproportionately targets Latinos, giving rise to both ethnic and racial profiling among law enforcement agencies.

“We now know that Latinos are disproportionately arrested by ICE through Secure Communities, the program has an adverse impact on community policing, and states and localities around the country do not want it in their communities,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition in a statement. “And yet the criticism goes unheeded by the administration. Simply put, the President and Secretary Napolitano must stop the rapid rollout of this fatally flawed program."

Along with New York, Secure Communities will also be activated in Massachusetts, Wyoming and Arkansas next week.

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