Hi OP. I'm a long-time lurker, first-time poster.
I attended the OC county commissioner's meeting last night and heard Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass defend the county's participation in the federal "secure communities" program, which provides access to the fingerprint databases of the Dept. of Homeland Security and the FBI. Here's what I took away from the meeting, along with info gleaned from local papers. (If I am mistaken, please jump in to clarify. This is not a subject about which I am particularly knowledgeable).
This is the short version: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/orange/story/1378663.html
(Herald-Sun has a good article too, but you have to register to read it).
As I understand it, "Secure Communities" is a two-way program. Detention officers fingerprint anyone coming to the OC jail. This goes into the database, the officer will get the ID info, and the location of the individual will go to federal officials, who may choose to follow up on the person if they have other warrants, or are undocumented.
The county commissioners resolved in 2007 to reject participation in the federal program known as 287 (g), a program that allows (some would say encourages) police to initiate immigration enforcement instead of relying on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), namely by detaining illegal or undocumented people in the jail solely on the basis of their immigration status. Alamance, Durham, and Wake currently participate in this program.
So, Pendergrass states that particpation in the new program holds to the spirit of the 2007 resolution rejecting 287 (g) because OC Sheriff's Office staff will not be involved or even aware of the immigration status of the people ID'd by the new system, nor will people be detained by OCSO for any reason other than criminal charges.
But others worry that since the feds get the ID info directly from the jails and can use it to detain or deport a person, this program will have the same effect as the one rejected in 2007, regardless of who's doing the actual detaining.
At the meeting last night, Pendergrass seemed to suggest that OC was chosen by the state to participate in the pilot version of the Secure Communities program, and stated that all 100 counties will enroll by the end of this year. Interestingly, The Daily Tarheel is the only local paper reporting that Pendergrass made the decision to enroll OC without consulting the board.
So which is it? Was this forced upon us by the state, or were we enrolled voluntarily? Or both? Does our community still share the sentiments of the board that voted in 2007to reject 287 (g)? How has this new program worked in other areas?