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'Secure Communities' Rolls Out in Cobb, Fulton Counties | News

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'Secure Communities' Rolls Out in Cobb, Fulton Counties

MARIETTA, GA -- A new federal program is going into effect in Cobb and Fulton Counties.  The program screens the fingerprints of people who are arrested against a national database, in an effort to verify their immigration status.  It's drawing praise and criticism.

Fingerprints are one of the few distinguishing features almost all of us have.  Being fingerprinted is an activity widely associated with being arrested for committing a crime.

Now, a new program, called Secure Communities, will run the fingerprints of those arrested, against a national database to check an inmate's immigration status.

"Secure communities is very important from the pro-American point-of-view in that it provides a great deal of faith and confidence in our local law enforcement," said D.A. King with the Dustin Inman Society

Secure Communities is part of a $1.4 billion effort by the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States.  It allows local law enforcement authorities to compare the fingerprints of people who are arrested against a national database of illegal criminal aliens.

The program is being rolled out across the United States.  This week, it goes into effect in Cobb and Fulton Counties.  Gwinnett, DeKalb and Clayton Counties are already using the program.

"Its important to remember that Secure Communities, as used by local enforcement, is only a tool by which local law enforcement notifies the federal government about the presence of an illegal alien that has been arrested," King said.  "The entire rest of the process is up to the federal government."

But the program is not without its opponents who believe it could open the door to racial profiling by local police.

"It diverts scarce law enforcement resources towards minor traffic violations, rather than focusing on serious crimes," says Jerry Gonzalez with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

"This undermines public safety because you alienate a segment of the community that should feel comfortable calling law enforcement to prevent crime and solving crime," Gonzalez added.

"It's just a way to find, locate and report illegal aliens. It's a huge success, and that is why the anti-enforcement crowd is so dead-set against it," King said.

ICE plans to have the Secure Communities initiative rolled out across the country by the end of 2013.