Developed by the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) as part of an initiative known as Secure Communities, the information-sharing capability is a key component of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) comprehensive strategy to enhance efforts to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States.
Previously, local arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the DOJ biometric system maintained by the FBI. Under the Secure Communities strategy, that fingerprint information will now be simultaneously checked against both 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, enabling the agency to take appropriate action to ensure dangerous criminal aliens are not released back into communities. Top priority is given to individuals 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 provides local law enforcement with an effective tool to identify dangerous criminal aliens," said Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. "Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE's mission. Our goal with Secure Communities is to use information sharing to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our law enforcement partners."
With the expansion of Secure Communities to Orange County, there are now a dozen California counties participating in the initiative, including Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego, Imperial, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Sacramento, Sonoma, Solano, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Across the country, Secure Communities is now being used by 120 jurisdictions in 16 states. By next year, ICE expects Secure Communities to have a presence in every state, with nationwide coverage anticipated by 2013.
Since its inception in October 2008, Secure Communities has identified more than 18,000 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping - 4,000 of whom have already been removed from the United States. Most of the criminal aliens who have been identified but not yet removed are completing their sentences. Additionally, ICE has removed nearly 25,000 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for 90 percent of the crimes committed by aliens.
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 Daniel D. Roberts, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. "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."
For more information on the Secure Communities program, visit www.ice.gov.