By Jean-Paul Salamanca (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Dec 28, 2012 11:41 PM EST

California okays driving licenses for some illegal immigrants (Photo : Reuters)

Starting next year, federal immigration officials will be cutting back its support of programs that give local police the authority to question individuals about immigration statuses and arrest them based on that.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, announced recently that the agency had decided not to renew any of its agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that operate task forces under the 287(g) program.

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"ICE has concluded that other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases," the agency said in a statement on their website.

The 287(g) program is part of ICE's ACCESS program--which stands for Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security--and allows ICE to partner with state and local law enforcement agencies in order to authorize officers, who have been trained under ICE programs beforehand, to perform immigration law enforcement functions.

Under the agreement, state and local law enforcement officials who partner with ICE can enforce immigration laws via two types of agreements: street-level enforcement and jail agreements.

Congress authorized the program when they passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

However, ICE will not be renewing the street-level agreements, which expire on Dec. 31.

The news will surely be welcomed by immigrant rights groups, who have opposed the program on the grounds that it promotes racial profiling among local police departments.

 Mary Giovagnoli, the director of the Immigration Policy Center, told ABC Univision that she was "cautiously optimistic" about the end of the street-level enforcement agreements.

"Most everyone who monitors this believes that it's a start but it's not enough," she said.

However, immigrant activists are also unhappy with the controversial Secure Communities act, which allows local police to arrest and detain immigrants up to 48 hours and run their fingerprints through the system. If an individual is found to be undocumented, that individual can face deportation once federal agents arrive for them.

Some have expressed worry that the program, which was originally supposed to target only dangerous or potentially dangerous criminals, may be turning into something different.

David Livingston, the sheriff in Contra Costa, Calif.--which boasts one of the highest deportation rates among counties nationwide, according to the Contra Costa Times--is among those worried about the program, which is why he announced recently that he would release immigrants from jail if all they did was commit minor offenses such as driving without a license or drinking in public.

"We're not immigration enforcement officers here in the county," he told the Times. "My overriding concern is, of course, public safety. We don't want to release someone who turns out to be a violent offender."

Earlier in December, California State Attorney General Kamala Harris said that California police were not required to respond to ICE requests to detain low-level offenders.

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