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Secure Communities
06/10/2009

New program launched to enhance identification and removal of criminal aliens in six South Texas counties

Criminal and immigration records of all sheriff's department inmates to be checked

EDINBURG, TEXAS - Six South Texas county sheriffs' offices - Hidalgo, Starr, Brooks, Jim Wells, Kleberg and Kenedy - have been added to the growing list of law enforcement agencies to receive biometrics based immigration history information about inmates via the new Secure Communities program.

Secure Communities, which is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), streamlines the process by which ICE determines if an arrested individual is a removable criminal alien.

Under the program, every individual booked into the county jails has their biometrics-fingerprints-checked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) biometric system for any immigration record. Prior to the advent of Secure Communities, as part of the standard booking process, these fingerprints were only checked for criminal history information in the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) biometric system.

If any fingerprints match those of someone in DHS's biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE and the intake site submitting the fingerprints. 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 is an ICE initiative to more broadly manage and modernize the processes used 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 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 Hidalgo County Detention Facility on a daily average is populated with at least 25% criminal illegal aliens (CIA) out of the total 1,232 inmate population. Re-offending criminal immigrant aliens have been a real security and economic issue for our community," said Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe Trevino. "The Secure Communities initiative will be extremely helpful in insuring they are properly flagged for deportation. This is yet another example of the assistance that DHS Secretary Napolitano is extending to local law enforcement agencies on the border so that our communities are kept safe."

"The Starr County Sheriff's Office has been working closely with ICE for years. ICE has assisted our department to identify illegal immigrants who commit crimes in Starr County, Texas. ICE then starts deportation process thus making this easier for this department. All this comes at no additional Starr County funds and no additional manpower needed," said Starr County Sheriff Rene Fuentes.
Secure Communities enhances the ongoing joint efforts by our South Texas County Sheriff Departments and ICE to identify criminal aliens in their jails system and process them for deportation. Eventually, with DOJ and other DHS component collaboration, ICE plans to expand this capability to all state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. Approximately 52 counties nationwide are currently participating in Secure Communities.

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 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," said FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Acting Assistant Director Jerome M. Pender. "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."

Secure Communities is a key facet of ICE's enforcement priority to identify, locate and remove criminal aliens, building on the success of the agency's Criminal Alien Program. In fiscal year 2008, ICE identified more than 221,000 potentially removable 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 expanding the agency's Criminal Alien Program and Fugitive Operations Program.

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