New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he is suspending the state's participation in a program reviled by immigration advocates that sends the fingerprints of anyone arrested to immigration authorities.
New York began participating in the program only months ago but Cuomo said it was failing to accomplish its goal of netting dangerous criminals and making New York more safe.
There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York, Cuomo said.
President George W. Bush launched the program, known as Secure Communities, and President Barack Obama has expanded its use as overall deportations mount to record levels. Secure Communities enters the fingerprints of people arrested in local and county jails into a database accessible by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. If a background check reveals that the person has entered the country illegally or has a sufficiently serious criminal record, ICE can initiate deportation proceedings.
Cuomo's decision to leave the program follows Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also terminated his state's involvement in Secure Communities, writing in a letter explaining the move that less than 20 percent of the people deported from Illinois under the program had ever been convicted of a serious crime.
While Obama has made the program a weapon in his immigration enforcement arsenal, immigration advocates said it conflated law enforcement and immigration enforcement. They also pointed out the crimes which make a person eligible for deportation, known as aggravated felonies, can be as minor as two misdemeanors.