Today, California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, said it’s up to local police agencies to decide whether to comply with federal government requests to hold illegal immigrants. The statement involves the federal Secure Communities program, which was launched in 2008 to catch the worst criminal offenders. The program checks the immigration status of people who are arrested for any crime, and federal immigration officials have insisted local police agencies must honor all requests for detention.

Harris said her office has received dozens of inquiries local enforcement officials confused about whether they must hold immigrant detainees for up to 48 hours after they otherwise would have been released. “In the interest of public safety, it is our recommendation that those chiefs and sheriffs make a decision about whether or not they will detain an illegal immigrant based on their priorities,” Harris said. The bulletin points out that the federal government neither reimburses the local police agencies nor protects them from lawsuits for wrongful arrests. It asserts that the federal government can’t “require state officials to carry out federal programs at their own expense.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the program is being reformed to focus “on criminals, recent border crossers and repeat immigration law violators” as targets for deportation.