A task force appointed by President Barack Obama to reform policing in the U.S. is recommending that the Department of Justice scrap an FBI database that gathers and maintains information on certain “immigration violators.”
The recommendation, handed down by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing in an interim report on Monday, pertains to FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
NCIC is used by local law enforcement officers during traffic stops and other encounters with the public. The database, developed in 1967, allows officers to find out if the individuals are wanted for crimes in other jurisdictions.
An immigrant violator database was added to NCIC in 2002. That particular database tells officers if a person has an outstanding removal order, whether the person failed to complete a special post-9/11 registration requirement or whether the individual was previously deported with a felony conviction.
If NCIC returns a positive hit for an immigration violation, local law enforcement officers are supposed to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some cities have policies requiring officers to do this, while others have policies against it.
Despite the usefulness of the tool in tracking immigration violators and possible terrorists, the Obama-appointed task force is suggesting it be put on ice.
The task force’s recommendation is based on testimony provided by an immigration activist at a recent listening tour.
Javier Valdez, of Make the Road New York, testified in front of the task force last month arguing that the database “exacerbated the fear that immigrant communities feel towards local police and remains a significant impediment to effective community policing.”
Valdez asserted in his testimony that Bush adopted the policy “without lawful authority” and “began entering civil immigration information regarding thousands of non-citizen [sic] into the NCIC database.”
Because of this strategy, “local officers now routinely make civil immigration arrests when they encounter individuals whose names produce hits in the NCIC database,” Valdez asserted.
He also argued that the number of people incorrectly identified as immigration violators is “extremely high,” citing a study that purportedly found that the error rate on immigration entries was 40 percent.
The task force’s new recommendation is part of a larger immigration strategy — one embraced by the Obama administration — of taking immigration enforcement out of the hands of local and state law enforcement agencies.
One of the task force’s recommendations is that the Department of Homeland Security terminate its policy of allowing local law enforcement to detain immigration status violators.
Another recommendation is that “law enforcement agencies should ensure reasonable and equitable language access for all persons who have encounters with police or who enter the criminal justice system.”
Most of the task force’s policy recommendations pertain to how police officers interact with the communities they serve. Obama set up the task force in the wake of several police-involved deaths last year.