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Secure Communities
02/24/2011

Secure Communities' information-sharing capability now activated across California

LOS ANGELES - The activation earlier this week of Secure Communities in six northern California jurisdictions - Alpine, Del Norte, Lassen, Sierra, Siskiyou and Trinity counties - means the program's vital information-sharing capability is, for the first time, accessible to law enforcement agencies in all 58 of the state's counties.

Secure Communities' information-sharing capability, a key component of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) comprehensive strategy to enhance efforts to identify and remove convicted criminal aliens from the country, uses biometric identification to alert ICE when potentially removable aliens are booked into local law enforcement custody for a crime.

Since May 2009, when San Diego County became the first California jurisdiction to benefit from Secure Communities, ICE has taken custody of nearly 48,000 convicted criminal aliens in the state identified as a result of the program. Of that number, 23,712 have already been removed from the United States. The aliens deported from California as a result of Secure Communities include more than 10,000 individuals who had been convicted of serious or violent criminal offenses. The data is current through Jan. 31.

The deportable aliens identified in California as a result of Secure Communities include a previously deported aggravated felon from Mexico who was arrested Jan. 31 by the Los Angeles Police Department for driving with a suspended license. Benjamin Yanez-Parra, 40, was subsequently turned over to ICE and is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office for re-entry after deportation. The publicly available case indictment details what the Secure Communities fingerprint screening originally revealed, that Yanez-Parra's criminal record includes three prior drug trafficking convictions and a burglary conviction as well as six deportations over a period of 11 years.

In Sacramento, Secure Communities is credited with identifying a man who used an alias following his Sept. 2010 arrest by Sacramento police for carrying an open container of alcohol in public. That individual, Jorge Vega-Reyes, was ultimately prosecuted by the Sacramento U.S. Attorneys Office for felony re-entry after deportation. As with the Los Angeles case, the publicly available case indictment details what the Secure Communities fingerprint originally showed, that Vega-Reyes had multiple prior convictions for drug trafficking as well as a conviction for assault with a firearm and had been previously deported. Vega was convicted of felony re-entry in November 2010 and is currently serving a 27-month prison sentence, following which he will be deported to Mexico.

"This is another significant milestone in the ongoing national deployment of the Secure Communities strategy," said Secure Communities Acting Assistant Director Marc Rapp. "Secure Communities is improving and modernizing the identification and removal of criminal aliens. It is a major step forward in ICE's efforts to work with local law enforcement in California and across the country to prevent criminal aliens from being released to our streets."

Prior to the deployment of Secure Communities, biometrics-fingerprints-taken of individuals charged with a crime and booked into custody were checked for criminal history information against the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Now, through enhanced information sharing between DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), biometrics submitted through the state to the FBI will be automatically checked against both the FBI criminal history records in IAFIS and the biometrics-based immigration records in DHS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). The IDENT system is maintained by DHS's US-VISIT program and IAFIS is maintained by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

If fingerprints match those of someone in DHS' biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE. ICE evaluates each case to determine the individual's immigration status and takes appropriate enforcement action. This includes aliens who are in lawful status and those who are present without lawful authority. Once identified through fingerprint matching, ICE will respond with a priority placed on aliens convicted of the most serious crimes first-such as those with convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping.

California is the ninth state nationwide where Secure Communities has been fully deployed. Other states include Texas, Arizona and Florida. Across the country, ICE is using the Secure Communities information-sharing capability in 1,067 jurisdictions in 39 states. By 2013, ICE plans to be able to respond nationwide to all fingerprint matches generated through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability.

Since ICE began using this enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the United States more than 62,500 aliens convicted of a crime. ICE does not regard aliens charged with, but not yet convicted of crimes, as "criminal aliens." Instead, a "criminal alien" is an alien convicted of a crime. In accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE continues to take action on aliens subject to removal as resources permit.

"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 about how ICE is using biometrics to identify aliens convicted of a crime, visit www.ice.gov/secure_communities.