The congressmen, at the urging of anti-illegal immigration activist D.A. King of Marietta, asked ICE in an Oct. 13 letter to speed up the implementation of the fingerprinting program called Secure Communities.
But in a Nov. 17 response, Elliot Williams, ICE’s assistant director for congressional relations, indicated ICE would not grant the request. So the lawmakers in a Thursday letter invited John Morton, ICE’s assistant secretary, to Capitol Hill for a meeting.
“We know that you fully understand the issue at hand and would like to better assist you in implementing this initiative more swiftly and more efficiently,” the lawmakers wrote.
Secure Communities modernizes the identification and removal process of illegal immigrants by using fingerprint-based biometric identification technology, prioritizing resources toward the greatest threats, such as the severity of the crime, and sharing information between law enforcement partners. Started under the Bush Administration, the program is currently active in only eight Georgia counties — Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Muscogee, Hall and Whitfield. Since ICE began using the enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the U.S. more than 50,600 immigrants convicted of a crime.
Gingrey and his colleagues wrote that ICE ranks Georgia 6th in the total population of illegal immigration nationwide, and the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center’s 2009 estimate of illegal immigrants in Georgia amounts to 425,000, representing 4.3 percent of the state’s overall population and 6.5 percent of its workforce.
The lawmakers noted how ICE’s Nov. 17 letter stated that when considering where and when to deploy Secure Communities program, “operational capacity” must be considered.
“Our question to you now is simple,” Gingrey wrote. “Why would you utilize such valuable and seemingly scarce resources to fully activate Secure Communities in such states as Hawaii and West Virginia, whose total illegal immigrant populations are estimated at 35,000 and less than 100,000, respectively, before Georgia? It seems as if as if ICE is not responsibly combating the ever-mounting problem of illegal immigration in this nation in order to best utilize the resources it has been granted by Congress.”