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By Maria Sacchetti

Three Massachusetts sheriffs are in talks with federal immigration officials to bring the Secure Communities program to their cities and towns, three months after Governor Deval Patrick said he opposed taking the controversial crime-fighting strategy statewide.

The sheriffs of Bristol, Worcester, and Plymouth counties say they want to join Boston police in the initiative, which cross-checks the fingerprints of everyone arrested against federal immigration databases, with the goal of deporting serious criminals. Federal officials confirmed they are in discussions with the sheriffs, and said other police departments have also expressed interest.

The aggressive outreach follows Patrick’s refusal to join the program in June, amid a volatile national debate over whether Secure Communities is enhancing public safety or diminishing it by making immigrants afraid to report crime. The governors of Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois have all criticized US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, for using the initiative to deport many immigrants who have never been convicted of a crime.

But supporters say Secure Communities is also netting many violent offenders, which is increasingly its focus, and that it should be expanded. Boston is the only city in the state enrolled in Secure Communities.

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