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Secure Communities
06/22/2010

New ICE Secure Communities initiative launched in South Dakota

Uses biometrics to prioritize immigration enforcement actions against criminal aliens encountered by local law enforcement agencies

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Beginning June 22, law enforcement agencies in the counties of Minnehaha and Pennington, S.D., will benefit from a new initiative developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that modernizes the process used to accurately identify and prioritize removable aliens in local custody.

"Secure Communities" utilizes a biometric information-sharing capability to enable ICE to better identify aliens at the time they are fingerprinted and booked on criminal charges.

Secure Communities is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and relies on law enforcement partners sharing biometric (fingerprint) information. This information allows ICE to prioritize action against aliens convicted of crimes. So far, Secure Communities has led to the removal of more than 30,000 convicted criminal aliens from the country.

"Secure Communities provides our local law enforcement partners with criminal and immigration information about the people in their custody," said Scott Banieke, ICE field office director for the St. Paul Field Office. "Biometrics is the tool that allows us to quickly and accurately identify aliens who may pose the greatest threat to our communities."

"In recent years, the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office has developed a strong working relationship with DHS ICE, supporting their efforts to identify criminal aliens who are detained in our jail," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead. "Now we are able to greatly improve our information-sharing capabilities by partnering with ICE in their Secure Communities Initiative. This is the right thing to do for the safety of our community and our nation."

Formerly, during the booking process, arrestees' fingerprints were checked for criminal history information only against the biometric database maintained by the FBI. With the implementation of Secure Communities, this fingerprint information is now automatically and simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If any fingerprints match those of someone in the DHS biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE. ICE evaluates each case to determine the individual's immigration status and takes appropriate enforcement action. 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 - such as those with convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping.

Secure Communities bolsters the ongoing joint efforts by ICE and participating law enforcement agencies in the United States. Secure Communities is DHS' comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States.

DHS' 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 interoperability of these two systems, which is the information-sharing capability ICE uses through Secure Communities, currently is activated in 390 jurisdictions in 23 states.

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.