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Secure Communities
11/17/2009

ICE initiative uses biometrics to enhance identification and removal of criminal aliens in Pima, Cochise, Santa Cruz counties

Criminal and immigration records of all detainees to be checked

TUCSON, Ariz. - Law enforcement agencies in Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties will benefit from a new initiative developed by the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) that modernizes the process used to accurately identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens from the community.

The initiative, Secure Communities, is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Secure Communities enables ICE to determine whether an individual arrested by a participating state or local law enforcement agency is a dangerous criminal alien and take the appropriate action to remove that individual from the community.

"Secure Communities is a DHS initiative to more broadly manage and modernize the processes used to identify and ultimately remove dangerous criminal aliens from our communities," said Acting Secure Communities Executive Director Marc Rapp. "Our goal with this effort is to use information sharing to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our local law enforcement partners."

The Secure Communities biometric identification technology is now accessible to the state and local law enforcement agencies in Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz that use electronic booking machines maintained by the county jails. The program has already been implemented in more than 100 jurisdictions in 13 states, including Maricopa, Pinal, Yuma and Yavapai counties in Arizona, with nationwide coverage expected by the end of 2013.

Formerly as part of the booking process, arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the DOJ biometric system maintained by the FBI. With the implementation of Secure Communities in Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz today, the fingerprint information will now be simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by the DHS.

If any fingerprints match those of someone in DHS's biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE. ICE evaluates each case to determine the individual's immigration status and takes appropriate enforcement action after offenders complete their prison terms. Top priority is given to aliens who pose the greatest threat to public safety, such as those with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.

Secure Communities enhances the ongoing joint efforts by the county sheriffs and ICE to identify criminal aliens in the jail system and process them for deportation. As a result of those efforts, more than 4,500 criminal aliens were turned over to ICE last year following their release from the custody of the sheriff's offices already participating in Arizona.

Secure Communities is part of DHS's 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.

"US VISIT is proud to support ICE, helping provide decision makers with comprehensive, reliable information 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," said the Assistant Director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division Daniel D. Roberts. "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 its goals."

More information about ICE's Secure Communities effort is available at www.ice.gov.