DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said a federal deportation program in which state and local police work with federal immigration authorities to deport dangerous undocumented immigrants sometimes targets the wrong people.
The Secure Communities Program, in which local police feed fingerprints into the federal immigration system, is the centerpiece of an Obama administration enforcement drive that led to a record 2 million deportations. Colorado joined the program under Hickenlooper's Republican predecessor, and Hickenlooper has said since soon after taking office in 2010 that he would review data around the program.
"What we had hoped was that the people being deported were violent criminals, and that hasn't always been the case," Hickenlooper said in an interview Monday. "We haven't gotten all the facts on all of the cases where there were additional circumstances that we don't know the facts of. We continue to gather the facts."
Colorado is at the center of a political and demographic transformation around questions of immigration and Latino identity; about a fifth of the state's population is Hispanic, but it's also the home of a strain of intensely anti-immigration politics whose face is former congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo.
And with a broad federal immigration compromise out of reach, deportation is now at the center of the federal debate. President Obama met last week with lawmakers and immigrant advocates who pressed him to dial back the rate of deportations.
Secure Communities "has not been perfect," Hickenlooper said.
"There have been swings of enforcement, but I continue to believe that the long-term solution to immigration reform is tied to making sure that the dangerous immigrants who shouldn't be here ... should be deported," he said. "Violent criminals are the ones we want deported, and oftentimes in some of these other cases there are all kinds of family issues — they have families and children — it gets very complicated."
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
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