Jan 4, 2011 11:33 PM by John Romero

Gov. approves controversial jail fingerprint program

A controversial program is taking root in Colorado's jails. It's called Secure Communities and it's designed to check a person's immigration status. On Tuesday Governor Bill Ritter announced that Colorado will join 35 other states in the federal program aimed at identifying illegal immigrants when they're booked into jails.

When someone is arrested and then booked, their fingerprints are compared with immigration and border patrol databases. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says it will make things easier on the system. "It's going to assist law enforcement in getting information faster." he explains, "It's truly information sharing and overcoming technological challenges that we just couldn't overcome in the past."

But not everyone agrees with the programs merits. As Governor Ritter adopted the measure a group protested outside the capitol. Art May with the Colorado Progressive Coalition believes Secure Communities with lead to further distrust of law enforcement. "Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and the community they're in." he explains, "These programs will erode that public trust." Others like Rev. Ann Dunlap of the United Church of Christ say it's flat out racial profiling. "Secure Communities terrorizes people of color." she says, "This is racist, unjust and immoral."

Maketa disagrees with the protesters. He believes the program will eliminate all bias. "This technology is blind to race, religion, place of birth and age." he says, "I think if anything, Secure Communities really removes the racial aspect of it completely." Maketa says Secure Communities is vital not only to weed out illegal immigrants, but it's also crucial to national safety. "If they're on some kind of terrorist watch list or associated with terrorism, I think it's of vital interest that our community, the state and the nation knows where they are." he says.



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