By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves & Lorena Larios Shah
The Secure Communities program was implemented by the Federal government in 2008. Since its inception, Immigration Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) has deported about 58,300 immigrants with criminal convictions according to reports by Agency officials. ICE has reported that every local jurisdiction in the United States is required to join the program by 2013. The program allows state and local police agencies to connect to the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) databases by using fingerprints to check the immigration history, the criminal record, of any immigrant (permanent residents and undocumented immigrants) booked after an arrest. If there is a match, both the law enforcement agency and I.C.E. are notified. Depending on the offense, I.C.E. can then place an immigration hold on the immigrant which prevents him/her from being released from State custody even after completion of the sentence. I.C.E. can then place the immigrant in removal proceedings.
Consulting with an immigration expert is crucial given the expansion of the Secure Communities Program. If I.C.E. places an immigration hold, an immigration expert can negotiate the release of an immigrant before I.C.E. transfers the immigrant to a detention facility. If an immigrant is transferred to an immigration facility an immigration expert can request a bond hearing before the immigration court and if eligible, an immigrant can be released.
Criminal convictions can have severe immigration consequences to an immigrant’s immigration case. The Immigration and Nationality Act, provides that certain offenses may be classified as aggravated felonies, crimes of moral turpitude, controlled substance violations, crimes of violence, or domestic violence. Each classification has a different immigration consequence. The immigrant’s previous criminal convictions and past immigration history is also important. These factors determine if an immigrant will have some form of relief. Some offenses may even prevent an individual from obtaining any relief at all which will inevitably result in his/her removal from the United States.