Irving Police Department and Kaufman County Jail were added Tuesday to the program known as "Secure Communities." Farmers Branch Police Department was added last week. The program, administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), streamlines the process for ICE to determine if an individual in local custody is a potentially deportable criminal alien. Under the program, the immigration records, if any, of every individual booked into the county will be checked.
Formerly as part of that 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, the fingerprints of arrested individuals will now be simultaneously checked against both the FBI's criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by DHS.
If an individual's fingerprints match those of a person in the DHS fingerprint system, the new automated process will notify ICE and the participating agency submitting the fingerprints. ICE will evaluate each case to determine the individual's immigration status and take appropriate enforcement action. Top priority will be given to offenders who pose a threat to the public safety, such as aliens with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery, and kidnapping.
"Secure Communities is a new effort to identify and ultimately remove dangerous criminal aliens from our communities," said Executive Director for ICE Secure Communities David Venturella. "Our goal with this ICE program is to use technology to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our local law enforcement partners."
"We view our participation in 'Secure Communities' as an additional tool to enhance what is already a very effective partnership with Immigration Customs Enforcement," said Larry Boyd, Irving Chief of Police.
"Secure Communities is a good program," said Kaufman County Sheriff David A. Byrnes. "By targeting criminal aliens, it definitely lends to overall public safety."
"The Farmers Branch Police Department is glad to participate in Secure Communities" said Sidney R. Fuller, Farmers Branch Chief of Police. "It is another program offered by ICE that helps us make our city safer by identifying and assisting in the removal of criminal illegal aliens. This is a great example of using interagency cooperation and technology to fight crime."
Secure Communities enhances the ongoing joint efforts by ICE and the law enforcement agencies in the north Texas area to identify criminal aliens in the local jail systems and process them for deportation. Carrollton PD and Johnson County Jail began participating Feb. 10, and Grayson and Hunt county jails began the week before. Mesquite and Richardson police departments and Collin and Denton county jails began participating in Secure Communities last month. Dallas County Jail was the first north Texas law enforcement agency to participate in Secure Communities starting in November. More Texas law enforcement agencies are expected to participate in the near future.
Eventually, in collaboration with DOJ and other DHS components, ICE plans to expand this capability to all state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.
"Secure Communities provides a valuable resource to identify criminal aliens who need to be removed from our community," said David N. James, Carrollton Chief of Police. "It directly compliments our work with ICE as participants in the 287(g) program. During 2008 Carrollton Police Department processed 4,576 prisoners. Once individuals were in our custody CPD assessed each and every prisoner based upon a specific decision matrix with access to ICE assistance. Two hundred thirteen of those prisoners, or 4.65 percent, were identified as having ICE detainers. Secure Communities will expedite the identification process, and it will potentially allow us to identify a larger range of individuals who are of interest to ICE."
Secure Communities is the cornerstone 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 biometric-based criminal records.
"US-VISIT is proud to support the Secure Communities program, 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. 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.
Secure Communities is a key facet of ICE's enforcement priority to identify, locate and deport criminal aliens and builds on the growing success of the agency's Criminal Alien Program. In fiscal year 2008, ICE identified more than 221,000 potentially deportable aliens incarcerated nationwide. This fiscal year, the agency anticipates spending more than $1 billion on such efforts, which in addition to Secure Communities, also includes expansion of the agency's Criminal Alien Program and Fugitive Operations Program.
More information about ICE's Secure Communities program is available at www.ice.gov.