CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Buncombe, Henderson and Gaston County Sheriffs' Offices yesterday received a new link that will automatically check the criminal and immigration history of all individuals booked into their jails. This new process will provide local officers as much information available about individuals they arrest and help to more efficiently identify criminal aliens for potential removal.
The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) have made enhancements to their respective biometric systems-the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)-to improve the interoperability of the two systems and enable this new information sharing process. IDENT and IAFIS interoperability is the cornerstone of Secure Communities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) comprehensive plan to identify and remove criminal aliens from local communities. In collaboration with DOJ and other DHS components, ICE plans to expand this capability to more than 50 state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation by next spring.
"US VISIT's innovative use of biometrics is all about providing comprehensive, reliable information to decision makers when and where they need it," said US VISIT Director Robert Mocny. "By enhancing the interoperability of DHS's and the FBI's biometric systems, we are able to give federal, state and local decision makers information that helps them better protect our communities and our nation."
"Under this plan, ICE will be utilizing FBI system enhancements that allow improved information sharing at the state and local law enforcement level based on positive identification of incarcerated criminal aliens. Additionally, ICE and the FBI are working together to take advantage of the strong relationships already forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement necessary to assist ICE in achieving their goals," said FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Assistant Director Tom Bush.
Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan said, "We welcome the opportunity to participate in the Secure Communities initiative. I strongly feel that interoperability will help us better protect our community by being able to identify violent offenders in ways that we couldn't have done in the past."
Our sheriff's office and ICE constantly seek ways to improve the safety of all by holding those who our break laws accountable," said Henderson County Sheriff Rick Davis. "The Secure Communities initiative, combined with our 287g program, is yet another major step in making our county an even better place to live."
"The partnership between ICE and North Carolina sheriffs has helped to create this interoperability technology that will improve the access to ICE information," said Alan Cloninger, Gaston County Sheriff. "This technology will increase the amount of information that sheriffs' and local law enforcement can use in identifying persons who are wanted for violating our laws. I firmly believe that the increase in information will help to make our communities and state safer for our law abiding citizens."
As part of the routine booking process at most detention centers, an individual's fingerprints are checked against IAFIS to obtain information about the detainee's criminal history. The new process will simultaneously check the detainee's fingerprints against the full IDENT system which holds biometrics based immigration records. If the individual's fingerprints match those of a non U.S. citizen, the new automated process notifies ICE's Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) for officials to evaluate the case and take appropriate action when necessary. Additionally, the local law enforcement agency will receive biographic identification information about any non U.S. citizen they arrest for criminal charges. Law enforcement officers can use this information to verify the identity of the person they have arrested.
Wake, Gaston, Buncombe, and Henderson county sheriffs' offices are four of the seven sites nationwide that have participated in a pilot version of interoperability between the DHS and DOJ databases. Under the pilot, these sites received limited immigration history information. The Wake County Sheriff's Office received the new link giving them access to full immigration history last week.
Local law enforcement officials are not permitted to take action against immigration violators unless trained and authorized by DHS. Wake, Gaston, and Henderson county sheriffs' offices have signed 287(g) agreements with ICE which authorizes their trained officers to enforce immigration law under ICE supervision. Under the 287(g) program the trained officers already have access to the DHS databases; however, officers have to run fingerprints separately on the IAFIS and IDENT systems. This new interoperable system will streamline the process for jail officers and fully check both the criminal history and the immigration records of everyone processed into the jail. Currently only those referred to officers with immigration enforcement authority have their immigration histories checked.
DHS's ICE and US-VISIT program are working with the FBI's CJIS division to make this program possible. US VISIT manages the IDENT database, and CJIS manages the IAFIS database. ICE's LESC serves as a national enforcement operations center by providing timely immigration status and identity information to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies on aliens suspected, arrested or convicted of criminal activity.