Worcester Telegram & Gazette
By Lew Evangelidis
As sheriff of Worcester County, my highest priority is the safety of our citizens. Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent decision to withdraw from the Secure Communities Act, a federal program designed to identify and deport illegal immigrants who have been arrested, will hinder rather than support law enforcement efforts to keep our communities safe.
I recently met with officials of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discuss illegal immigration and programs such as the Secure Communities Act that are designed to provide enhanced tools to law enforcement agencies. The Worcester County House of Corrections houses dozens of criminal aliens. We should utilize every tool available to expedite the process of possible deportation of such individuals. In my role as a law enforcement official, I completely support this unified collaborative between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to improve and modernize the identification and deportation of criminal aliens from Massachusetts and the United States. The Secure Communities Act uses information that is readily available at little or no cost, and has been successfully implemented in 42 states. Implementation of this program is a simple process. When an individual has been arrested and is in the booking process, biometric information such as fingerprints will be automatically submitted and compared against the federal Department of Justice criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security records, including immigration status. If there is a match, ICE is automatically notified and will determine whether enforcement action is required. This process applies to all arrested individuals in police custody, not just those suspected of being foreign nationals, thus dispelling any notion that the Secure Communities Act will promote racial or ethnic profiling. The Secure Communities Act has many benefits for our law enforcement community and will enhance public safety. Implementation requires no change to our procedures. This information is already available at the federal level, and this program simply coordinates the independent databases maintained by various agencies. The act uses cutting-edge technology to provide the most accurate identification information based on biometrics, rather than easily falsified information such as name, address, and date of birth. Fingerprinting is far more accurate, almost impossible to forge, and reflects innovative law enforcement practices. Adopting the Secure Communities Act would prioritize enforcement against those who pose the greatest threat to public safety. ICE’s main concern will be the removal from our community of criminal aliens charged with the most severe crimes — such as homicide, rape, kidnapping, and national security offenses. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office has numerous convicted illegal immigrants in its custody, all of whom cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to house. It isn’t every day that government has an opportunity to increase the safety of our citizens at little or no cost. Massachusetts should join the Secure Communities Act to promote public safety and protect our citizens, rather than maintain a safe haven for illegal alien criminals. Lew Evangelidis is sheriff of Worcester County.