Article by Mark Rockwell, Government Security News, September 30, 2010:
All counties in the state of Texas have completed implementation of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Secure Communities biometric federal information sharing capabilities, the agency said Sept. 29. According to a national map on ICE’s home page updated Sept. 28, only Florida and Virginia have similar statewide coverage. All of Virginia’s counties had been participating in the program, until Sept. 28, when Arlington County withdrew, citing safety and community relations concerns. Santa Clara County in California withdrew from the program the same day as Arlington County, citing similar worries.
With complete program implementation in Texas, said ICE in a statement, Secure Communities is now 659 jurisdictions in 32 states. Since Secure Communities was launched in 2008, it said, the program has help identify and remove 41,000 convicted criminal aliens from the U.S. ICE’s Secure Communities program is a biometric federal information-sharing capability that enables ICE to identify any alien booked into local law enforcement’s custody for a crime.
Formerly, during the booking process, arrestees’ fingerprints were checked for criminal history information only against the biometric database maintained by the FBI, according to ICE. Under Secure Communities, fingerprint information is automatically and simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said ICE.
If any fingerprints match those of someone in the DHS biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE. This notification includes aliens who are in lawful status and those who are present in the U.S. without lawful authority. ICE said it evaluates each case to determine the individual’s immigration status and takes appropriate enforcement action. Once identified through fingerprint matching, ICE said it responds with a priority placed on aliens convicted of the most serious offenses first, such as those with convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping.
“The Secure Communities strategy provides an effective tool to help ICE identify aliens in the criminal custody of law enforcement with little or no cost to our law enforcement partners,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Applying this biometric information-sharing tool in Texas improves public safety by enabling ICE to prevent the release of convicted criminal aliens back into our communities when they complete their sentences.”
“This sophisticated biometrics tool allows us to quickly and accurately identify those criminal aliens who pose the greatest threat to our communities,” said Nuria Prendes, field office director for the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations in Dallas.
By 2013, ICE said it plans to be able to respond to all fingerprint matches generated nationwide through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability.