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Secure Communities
04/13/2010

Secure Communities activated in more Virginia communities

Now the criminal and immigration records of all local arrestees to be checked

Fairfax, Va. - Law enforcement agencies in four northern Virginia counties - Arlington, Fauquier, Loudoun and Stafford - and the city of Alexandria, Va., began employing a new information-sharing capability made available by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of the Secure Communities strategy. Secure Communities is ICE's comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of 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 the community. 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."

With the expansion of the information-sharing capability to these five jurisdictions, now seven northern Virginia jurisdictions benefit from this tool, including Prince William and Fairfax counties. Across the country, 145 jurisdictions in 18 states have this capability. By 2013, ICE expects to make this capability available nationwide.

"Secure Communities is a great tool in helping us to enforce the law and send a message that there is a cost to coming into the country illegally," said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. "In most cases, we are targeting those with a criminal background. We are taking them off the streets and out of our communities, and we are potentially deterring them from returning to the United States and committing further crimes."

"We are pleased to have this program in Loudoun and appreciate the opportunity to continue our working relationship with ICE," said Loudoun County Sheriff Steve Simpson. "Secure Communities will only improve our local efforts in removing criminal aliens from the country who are involved in gang activity and other serious crimes in our community," Simpson added.

"Secure Communities is an automated program that will streamline the process to check residency status on every individual that comes into the Arlington County Detention Center. In addition, it helps us continue to partner at the local, state and federal level to ensure Arlington County is a safe place to live and work," said Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur.

Since ICE began using this information sharing capability in October 2008, it has identified more than 18,800 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping-more than 4,000 of whom have already been removed from the United States. Most of the aliens who have been identified but not yet removed are currently in immigration proceedings or completing their sentences. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 24,700 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.

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."

The MOA ICE entered with the Commonwealth of Virginia will bring the Secure Communities strategy to all Virginia law enforcement agencies by 2013.

Since its inception in October 2008, Secure Communities has identified more than 18,800 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 1 crimes, more than 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.

For more information, visit www.ice.gov/secure_communities.