Gov. Ritter secures a necessary policy

When Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday announced Colorado would join 35 other states in signing onto the federal Secure Communities program, he did so amid shouts of protest from immigrant-rights advocates.

That’s too bad, because Secure Communities is a sensible program to track illegal immigrants who commit other crimes in this country, and allow the federal government to deport the most serious offenders.

Most Coloradans, we believe, will support a plan under which local law enforcement submits the fingerprints of criminal suspects not just to the FBI — as they routinely do now for criminal background checks — but to the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether the suspects are in this country illegally.

That doesn’t mean racial profiling, as some opponents contend. Rather, it means a reasonable effort to determine the immigration status of those convicted of crimes here.

In an age of violent drug cartels operating along our southern border and Islamic terrorists from all over the globe trying to wreak havoc in this country, such a policy is not just reasonable. It is required.

Secure Communities was started during the Bush administration and was continued by President Barack Obama’s team. It began in a single Texas county and has gradually expanded to other states. It will be mandatory for all counties in the country in 2013.

According to federal figures, in 2010 the program led to the deportation of more than 11,000 individuals convicted of the most severe crimes, and more than 24,000 people convicted of lesser crimes.

The issue of illegal immigration remains a daunting one that generates numerous policy ideas and even more political heat. But few people would argue that those who are in this country illegally — and commit other crimes on top of their illegal entry — should be allowed to stay here.

Secure Communities is a rational way to see that most of those criminals don’t remain in the United States. Gov. Ritter deserves credit for not passing the issue onto his successor, but signing onto the federal program now, even if he did wait until the final days of his administration to do so.

Also welcome is the fact that Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper said he supports Secure Communities and plans to continue to expand its implementation in Colorado.


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