In what was lauded a few years ago as ” . . . future of immigration enforcement,” local law enforcement agencies are no longer obligated to comply with the Secure Communities Program, a once federally-mandated policy of deporting individuals considered threatening to public safety.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris earlier this month released county and municipal law enforcement agencies from detaining and transferring illegal immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation. Since March 2011, more than 150,000 convicted criminal aliens have been booked into ICE custody resulting in more than 75,000 deportations. It is reported that law enforcement nationwide arrests about 1 million non-citizens accused of crimes.

The program was controversial from its start. The sticking point was misrepresentation of exactly who is being picked up and what is expected of law enforcement partners. In short order, many state and local partners to the program regretted participation because of possible detrimental effects on the relationship between the immigrant community and law enforcement, which found that such persons were reluctant to contribute to a police investigation because they fear arrest and deportation.

All arrests’ fingerprints were sent to immigration officials, who could request they be held for up to 48 hours until transfer to federal custody.

Implementation of the program has been criticized for not adhering to its original goals of deporting criminals and, instead, becoming a tool to facilitate general deportation. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca each stated publicly their reluctance to such punitive measures against illegal immigrants because of trust issues so vital in the investigatory process.

This was particularly true in relation to so-called “street” or “property” crimes, which often require personal interviews and the revelation of “household” status. Immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities (ex: Maywood, Bell, Cudahy) are reluctant to share information with law enforcement because of their citizenship status.

“The last thing we want is victims to be frightened to come forward,” said Steve Whitmore, sheriff’s department spokesman.