California's Curveball on Secure Communities

By 2013 the Obama administration hopes to run all arrest-related fingerprints through a U.S. database, identifying illegal immigrants in the process. Local law enforcement has resisted this, fearing it will hinder crimefighting in immigrant areas. Now the feds say participation is mandatory. But the case isn't closed: authorities in at least four states are exploring ways to thwart the program, called Secure Communities.

The sheriff of El Paso, Texas, says he shares only those fingerprints associated with serious offenses. In Santa Fe, N.M., the county jail bars immigration agents from interviewing inmates--a common pre-deportation procedure--and doesn't alert officials before releasing people. The most applicable method may be in California, where Santa Clara and San Francisco officials say they may decline to hold nonviolent illegals until the feds can grab them. A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which does not dispute the legality of these tactics, defended Secure Communities as "a shining example" of cooperation.