County wants feds to keep hands off fingerprints

September 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to opt out of the federal government's Secure Communities Program known as SCOMM.

The 5-to-0 vote came after more than an hour of public testimony that largely denounced the federal immigration initiative, which automatically sends fingerprints taken by local law enforcement agencies of arrested individuals to the Department of Homeland Security.

Supervisors however, admit Attorney General Jerry Brown will likely block the effort just as he did in San Francisco.

"There's been an agreement by the attorney general that would cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and extricate the information anyway so I'm concerned with that," Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa said.

Those opposed to the government initiative say that it forces communities to live in fear and that even victims of crimes can be deported causing immigrant families to be torn apart.

Shirakawa proposed that the county send a letter to the Department of Homeland Security formally requesting that Santa Clara County not be a part of the federal program.

"We are not here to do the job of ICE," he said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, has been writing letters to the Department of Homeland Security to ask when and how a request to opt out would be honored.

One by one, members of the public spoke before the board calling attention to what they call the dangers of a policy that pushes illegal immigrants into hiding and makes them fearful of interacting with local police.

Laura Villalobos told the board that she knows many parents aren't even involved in their children's education or volunteer at schools because they are worried about being fingerprinted.

There were two speakers out of 18 who spoke in favor of SCOMM.

Lee Ellak of San Jose told the board that if it opted out of the Secure Communities Program, Santa Clara County would become known as a safe haven for illegal immigrants and cost the county untold millions in crime and social services that are provided to immigrants.

"ICE is trying to and Secure Communities is trying to get rid of that criminal element within the illegal immigrant community," he said.

After the board's unanimous vote to opt out of SCOMM, a large group of people at the supervisors' meeting gave the board a standing ovation for taking the position.


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