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Secure Communities

Dallas County Sheriff's Office one of the first in U.S. to receive full interoperability technology to help identify criminal aliens biometrically

Departments of Homeland Security and Justice providing more identity information to local officers about non U.S. citizen criminal arrests

DALLAS - Dallas County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday became one of only a handful of law enforcement agencies in the United States so far to receive a new database link that will automatically check the criminal and immigration histories of all individuals booked into its jail. This new process provides local officers as much information available about individuals they arrest, and helps to more efficiently identify criminal aliens for potential deportation.

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 interoperability between the two systems and enable this new information-sharing process. The interoperability between IDENT and IAFIS is the cornerstone of the program called "Secure Communities," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) comprehensive plan to identify and remove criminal aliens from local communities. In collaboration with the Justice Department and other Department of Homeland Security components, ICE plans to expand this capability to more than 50 state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation by next spring.

"Interoperability will create a virtual ICE presence at every local jail, allowing us to identify and ultimately remove dangerous incarcerated criminal aliens from our communities," said Julie L. Myers, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE.

"Using this technology, we will build upon the remarkable success we have had working with state and local law enforcement, and we will revolutionize the process of identifying criminal aliens in custody."

"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.

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 also simultaneously checks 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 electronically 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 receives biographic identification information about any non-U.S. citizen they arrest on criminal charges. Law enforcement officers can use this information to verify the identity of the person they have arrested.

Dallas and Harris county sheriffs' offices are the two Texas locations of the seven total sites nationwide that have so far participated in a pilot version of interoperability between the DHS and DOJ databases. Under this pilot, these sites receive limited immigration history information.

Dallas and Harris counties, and other agencies including the North Carolina sheriffs' offices in Gaston, Buncombe, Henderson and Wake counties, have participated in a pilot version of interoperability between the DHS and DOJ databases. Under the pilot, these sites receive limited immigration history information.

Local law enforcement officials do not have immigration law enforcement authority to take action against immigration violators - unless they are trained and authorized by DHS. Harris, Gaston, Henderson and Wake county sheriffs' offices have signed agreements with ICE which authorizes their "287(g)-trained" officers to enforce immigration law under ICE supervision. Named for the section of law under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 287(g)-trained officers already have access to the DHS databases. However, officers must run fingerprints separately on the IAFIS and IDENT systems. This new interoperable system streamlines the process for jail officers and fully checks both the criminal histories 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.