A new law aimed at deporting illegal immigrants charged with or convicted of crimes is set to go into effect on Tuesday, over the objections of civil rights groups and Gov. Deval Patrick.
The so-called Secure Communities act gives the federal government the right to check the immigration status of locally arrested individuals to determine if they are in the country illegally. If they are, they face deportation.
The law, which went into effect last week in New Hampshire, has been rolled out across the country since 2008 and has been a huge success, according to a spokesman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.
"Secure Communities has proven to be the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach of the past and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators," said Ross Feinstein in a statement emailed to The Eagle-Tribune. "In fiscal year 2011, for the first time ever, 55 percent of all of ICE's removals were convicted criminals and over 90 percent of all removals clearly fell into one of ICE's categories for priority enforcement."
Local law enforcement officials welcomed the new law, saying it doesn't create any more work for police but it does make the streets safer.
"I've been a big supporter of it," said Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon. "It's been a long time coming."
He said the new law amounts to "flipping an electronic switch to let the FBI talk to ICE."
For years, every time someone is arrested and fingerprinted by local police, their prints have been sent to a State Police databank as well as to the FBI. The only difference now, said Solomon, is that those prints will also be sent to ICE.