The three counties join the six other jurisdictions statewide that have access to this valuable information sharing technology - Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, Box Elder, Weber and Cache counties. Those activations were announced in late March by Hatch and ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton.
"After working with the sheriffs' offices in these communities for the past several months, we determined that the Secure Communities program would be an effective way to identify and remove criminal aliens from our state," Hatch said. "By tapping innovative technology and sharing information between law enforcement agencies, Utah now has one more tool in its arsenal to protect our streets from criminal activity. Once fully implemented, this program will help local law enforcement officers enhance procedures to ensure that serious criminal alien offenders who are arrested are identified for deportation and not released back into Utah communities."
Administered by ICE, Secure Communities relies on law enforcement partners sharing biometric (fingerprint) information. Using biometric information-sharing technology will enable ICE to better identify aliens at the time they are fingerprinted and booked on criminal charges. This includes aliens who are in lawful status and those who are present without lawful authority. Once identified through fingerprint matching, ICE will respond with a priority placed on aliens convicted of the most serious offenses first.
"We want to ensure our local law enforcement partners know as much as possible about the people in their custody," said ICE Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. "By using sophisticated biometrics, this tool allows us to quickly and accurately identify aliens who may pose the greatest threat to our communities."
Since its inception in Utah, Secure Communities is credited with detecting more than 40 aliens in local custody who had been charged with or convicted of crimes. Of those, 12 were foreign nationals whose criminal records included convictions for the most serious types of crimes, Level 1 offenses. Seventeen of those arrested have already been removed from the country.
"This fits in very well with our 287(g) program, a program that cross trains local enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws," said Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith. "Secure Communities is another tool for local law enforcement to use to rid our communities of criminal aliens who are committing crimes, and could be gang members or violent criminals. These are the criminals we want to focus resources on to detain and deport."
Secure Communities is part of DHS' comprehensive plan to distribute technology that links local law enforcement agencies to both FBI and DHS biometric systems. DHS's US VISIT Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) holds biometrics-based immigration records, while the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) contains biometrics-based criminal records.
The Secure Communities biometric information-sharing technology is currently activated in more than 220 jurisdictions in 21 states. As a result of this technology and ICE's response to date, ICE has removed more than 20,000 convicted criminal aliens who were identified through their fingerprints. ICE does not regard aliens charged with, but not yet convicted of crimes, as "criminal aliens." Instead, a "criminal alien" is an alien convicted of a crime.
For more information on the Secure Communities program, visit www.ice.gov.