Illinois Pulls Out of Secure Communities Program

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CHICAGO -- Governor Pat Quinn is ending Illinois’s participation in a controversial federal immigration program meant to deport immigrants guilty of serious crimes, which has resulted in the detention of mostly immigrants convicted of no crimes or minor offenses.

Illinois is the first state in the nation to agree to participate and then withdraw from the Secure Communities program, which obligates local law enforcement agencies to share fingerprints of anyone arrested with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

As the Chicago News Cooperative reported in March, ICE officials and contractors had aggressively pushed to implement the program in Chicago despite county and city ordinances that appear to prohibit city and county law enforcement agencies from participating.

Quinn’s announcement came as the state legislature was scheduled today to debate and vote on the Smart Enforcement Act, which would have allowed counties to opt out of the program, require an accounting of its cost to local law enforcement agencies and mandate it only be used for immigrants with serious criminal convictions. Senate president John Cullerton and House Speaker Mike Madigan on Saturday attended an immigrants rights rally centered on the Smart Enforcement Act and the Illinois DREAM Act, also scheduled for a vote today, which would provide scholarships for undocumented students at no expense to taxpayers.

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