Secure Communities: Forum tonight at Auraria to oppose controversial immigration program

The invitation is alarming: "Come find out what nasty things Colorado Governor Ritter is contemplating doing BEHIND closed doors." The nasty thing it's referring to is Secure Communities, a federal program that would check the fingerprints of anyone arrested in Colorado against immigration records, possibly triggering a call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Tonight at 6 p.m. in the St. Catejan's Center on the Auraria campus, a group of Metro State College enrollees called Politically Active Students is hosting a forum on Secure Communities to raise awareness about the program and alert students that it's likely coming to Colorado -- and soon.

"It's on Governor Ritter's desk as we speak," says student organizer Jeremy Bermudez. But Ritter hasn't signed on, and it's not clear whether he will do so before January, when Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper takes over as governor.

"Even if Ritter doesn't sign it, it doesn't mean Hickenlooper won't pick it up and sign it on his first day in office," Bermudez says. "We're trying to raise awareness to get more people in their offices to say that this isn't a good thing for Colorado."

In fact, Hickenlooper has said he supports Secure Communities, a position Bermudez and other student activists disagree with. Bermudez points to statistics from other states that have implemented the program, which show it's led to an alarming number of deportations. Though the stated goal of the program is to deport criminal aliens -- illegal immigrants who have also committed crimes -- most deportees are not criminals, he says.

"It promotes racial profiling among law enforcement," Bermudez says. As a result, he adds, "the program will erode community policing. People aren't going to trust the police."

Tonight's event will feature a civil rights attorney, as well as activists. Bermudez hopes to draw those concerned about immigration -- and immigrants themselves.

More from our Immigration archive: "Road to nowhere: The men who are caught transporting illegal immigrants rarely pay the price."