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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kentucky's immigration enforcement program criticized for deporting non-violent offenders

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Linda J. Johnson
The Lexington Herald-Leader
May 13, 2011

Since Lexington joined a federal program in October aimed at deporting illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes, 75.6 percent of the 41 people deported have been convicted of a minor crime or no crime at all.

Lexington's percentage of such deportations is well above the national average of 60 percent, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of a report on the program released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on March 4.

There has been mounting national criticism in recent weeks of ICE's Secure Communities program, leading Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to abandon the initiative earlier this month.

In a May 4 letter to Marc Rapp, the acting assistant director of Secure Communities, Quinn said his state wants to withdraw because more than "30 percent of those deported from the United States, under the program, have never been convicted of any crime, much less a serious one."

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government spokeswoman Susan Straub said the city has no plans to take similar action.

"We will continue to work with Homeland Security to address the issues involving illegal immigration and have no plans to withdraw from our participation in this Homeland Security initiative," Straub said.

In the program, local law enforcement shares fingerprints of all those arrested in a specific county with the Department of Justice. The fingerprints are then submitted to ICE and checked against U.S. Department of Homeland Security databases to determine a person's immigration status. ICE then determines what, if any, enforcement action to take.