SARASOTA, Fla. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced on Wednesday the successful implementation of a new information-sharing capability by the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office that will help identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States.
Previously, local arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the Department of Justice's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) maintained by the FBI. Now, as part of the Secure Communities strategy, fingerprint information submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies will now be simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records in IAFIS and the biometrics-based immigration records in the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).
If 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 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.
"The Secure Communities strategy provides local law enforcement with an effective tool to identify criminal aliens," said Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. "Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE's mission. Our goal is to use biometric information sharing to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our law enforcement partners."
"Identification and removal of criminal aliens has been a priority for this office since I took office," said Sheriff Tom Knight. "We initially partnered with ICE in May 2009 to implement the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), but enhancing our partnership to include the Secure Communities strategy will further ensure these offenders are not released back onto Sarasota County streets."
Secure Communities is now being used by 159 jurisdictions in 19 states across the country. ICE expects this capability to be available nationwide by 2013.
Since ICE began using this information sharing capability in October 2008, it has identified more than 21,700 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping-more than 4,900 of whom have already been removed from the United States. Most of the aliens subject to removal who have been identified but not yet removed are in legal proceedings or completing their sentences. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 28,400 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for approximately 90 percent of the crimes committed by aliens.
The IDENT system is maintained by DHS's US-VISIT program, and IAFIS is maintained by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).
"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 CJIS 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, visit www.ice.gov/secure-communities.