New York Suspends Secure Communities; Second State to Withdraw from Immigration Enforcement Program

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has withdrawn the state from the controversial Secure Communities program, an immigration enforcement initiative that has sparked protests and outrage throughout the country.

Cuomo said New York will suspend participation in Secure Communities to "review mounting evidence that the program is not meeting its stated goal and has serious consequences for witnesses, victims of crimes and law enforcement."

The first-year governor also said that his office has received numerous complaints. He added that the federal government has do little to make its intentions about the program clear.

"The questions raised are further aggravated by inconsistent statements by DHS and a failure to disclose basic information about the program," he said.

The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investigating the program.

By suspending the program, New York becomes the second state to withdraw from Secure Communities. Last month, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn backed out of the controversial program.

Opposition to Secure Communities, which calls for automatic checks of the immigration status of those arrested by local and state police, has mounted in other states, like Massachusetts and California.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that enforces Secure Communities, said the program is designed for local law enforcement to protect its citizens and the communities they serve.

"When trying to enforce the immigration laws of our country, ICE focuses its limited resources to concentrate on those who find themselves in the country illegally and have broken the law," the spokeswoman, Nicole Navas, told the Associated Press.

Cuomo's decision was widely praised among other politicians and immigration advocates in New York.

"I thank Governor Cuomo for showing the leadership and foresight to suspend this misguided program, which does not reflect New York's long history as a welcoming home for newly arrived immigrants," said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. "The Secure Communities initiative does not make our nation safer, but inhibits cooperation with law enforcement and violates immigrants' due process rights."

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, concurred.

"For centuries, families have gone to great lengths to come to this great nation, and we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to make sure the law is on their side," she said. "Unfortunately, the Secure Communities program has failed to provide protections to many individuals."

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