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12/16/2008

Federal and local law enforcement agencies partner to better identify criminal aliens

Bucks and Montgomery counties, first to receive program in the state

PHILADELPHIA - Today, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) launched the Secure Communities program in Bucks and Montgomery counties to better identify and remove criminal aliens from these communities. This program, administered by DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will now check the immigration history of every individual booked into detention facilities in the two counties. Additionally, ICE will be automatically notified when non U.S. citizens are in custody to determine if follow-up action is necessary.

"Secure Communities will create a constant ICE presence at every local jail, allowing us to identify and ultimately remove dangerous incarcerated criminal aliens from our communities," said Executive Director for ICE Secure Communities David Venturella. "Using this technology, we will build upon the remarkable success we have had working with state and local law enforcement and we will modernize the process of identifying criminal aliens in custody."

James F. Cawley, chairman of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners said, "Information sharing is critical to all agencies' public safety efforts, and we're proud to be taking another step forward to do our part here in Bucks County."

Bucks and Montgomery counties are the first sites to join this program in Pennsylvania. Eleven other sites nationwide are benefiting from the additional information and assistance with removing criminal aliens received through Secure Communities. In collaboration with DOJ and other DHS components, ICE is expanding this capability to all state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.

Michelle A. Henry, Bucks County District Attorney said, "This effort is important for Bucks County because it joins together local law enforcement with other federal agencies to achieve the common goal of removing criminal aliens that pose a threat to our communities."

Before Secure Communities, as part of the routine booking process at local jails, an individual's fingerprints were checked against DOJ's FBI database to obtain information about the detainee's criminal history. The new process will simultaneously check the detainee's fingerprints against the full DHS database as well, 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 to evaluate the case.

This capability is part of DHS's plan to distribute integration technology that will link local law enforcement agencies to both FBI and DHS biometric databases. DHS's US-VISIT Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) holds biometrics based immigration records, and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) contains biometrics based criminal records. DHS and DOJ are working to make IDENT and IAFIS fully interoperable to ensure that federal, state and local decision makers have access to the information they need in a timely manner. Local law enforcement officials are not permitted to take action against immigration violators unless authorized by DHS.

For more information, please go to www.ice.gov or www.fbi.gov.