Initiative aimed high, missed big

Three years ago when the federal government announced the Secure Communities program with the intent of finding and deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records -- not including those who have lived and worked in this country without legal documents -- it was hailed as "the future of immigration enforcement" because Immigration and Citizenship Services would focus its resources on identifying and removing "the most serious criminal offenders first and foremost."

Local officials were also told their participation would be voluntary. Three years later, and more than 86,000 deportations of undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, the program has come under intense criticism from pro-immigrant groups and local officials who have "discovered" that the program is not voluntary.

Immigrant rights groups have rightly complained that "innocent" people have become entrapped in the program. Federal statistics credit the program with the deportation of more than 6.5 million people, including more than 2.4 million through May of this year.

The numbers tell only part of the story. When fewer than .013 percent of those deported have a criminal record, the program can be graded as a failure. When innocent people, including a woman who called police to report abuse by her boyfriend, are deported, it is a major failure.

The Obama administration should be applauded for its decision last Thursday to review the 300,000 deportation cases and focus on criminals and other high priority folks, instead of DREAM Act students and others who are contributing to this country. Individuals who qualify for relief can also receive work permits.

Critics call this "backdoor amnesty." We call it an overdue correction.