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Secure Communities
03/16/2010

Secure Communities strategy at work in Fairfax County

FAIRFAX, Va. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that since the agency began using biometrics-fingerprints-to identify criminal aliens in Fairfax County one year ago, ICE officers have identified more than 1,200 aliens charged with or convicted of crimes. As part of ICE's Secure Communities strategy for better identifying and removing criminal aliens, ICE has already removed 144 individuals, while the remaining are in immigration proceedings or will be removed from the United States once they serve their criminal sentence.

In March 2009, as part of the Secure Communities strategy, ICE deployed IDENT/IAFIS interoperability to Fairfax County law enforcement agencies, which enables fingerprints submitted during the booking process to be checked automatically against the Department of Justice's (DOJ) criminal history records and DHS records, including immigration status. When fingerprints match DHS records, ICE is automatically notified and promptly determines if enforcement action is required. This process applies to all individuals arrested and booked into custody, not just those suspected of being foreign nationals.

Fairfax County was the first in Virginia to benefit from IDENT/IAFIS interoperability. Since then, ICE has partnered with 118 additional locations, including Prince William County, Va. and Prince George's County, Md., to use biometrics to identify and ultimately remove criminal aliens from the U.S.

"Our first year of partnering with Fairfax County has been extremely successful in identifying and ultimately removing criminal aliens, who might have gone unidentified without our enhanced biometric identification capability," said Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. "The Secure Communities strategy's success in Fairfax is indicative of the success we're seeing nationwide and underscores the value of collaboration between ICE and law enforcement."

"The Secure Communities program has been a great success," said Sheriff Stan Barry. "ICE has been able to identify illegal aliens that committed serious crimes in Fairfax County and presented a threat to our community. Through this program, ICE was able to deport them at no cost to Fairfax County."

In Fairfax County, nearly 300 aliens identified through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability were charged with or convicted of the most serious types of crimes, or Level 1 offenses, including homicide, rape and kidnapping. Already, ICE has removed more than 11 percent of this population, representing individuals who posed the greatest threat to public safety. For example, shortly after IDENT/IAFIS interoperability was deployed in the county last year, Fairfax County arrested and booked a man for soliciting a prostitute. The subject's fingerprints were checked through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability, identifying him as a non U.S. citizen and aggravated felon who had been arrested or encountered by law enforcement 13 times using multiple aliases for more than 10 years. His convictions ranged from felony drug possession to first degree attempted armed robbery. Based on this information, received automatically through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability, ICE placed an Immigration Detainer (I 247) for the man and is processing him for removal upon completion of his current sentence.

Since ICE began deploying IDENT/IAFIS interoperability in 2008, biometrics has helped ICE identify more than 18,800 aliens charged or convicted with Level 1 offenses nationwide. Of those, more than 4,000 have already been removed from the United States.

IDENT/IAFIS interoperability is the result of work by the DOJ's FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division and DHS's US-VISIT program. CJIS maintains the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), which stores biometric criminal records, and US-VISIT maintains DHS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), which stores biometric immigration records. CJIS and US VISIT have made these systems interoperable, enabling fingerprints submitted to one system to be checked against both systems automatically.

The deployment of IDENT/IAFIS interoperability is a critical tool in ICE's Secure Communities strategy. ICE plans to make IDENT/IAFIS interoperability available to every jurisdiction by 2013.

For more information about Secure Communities, visit www.ice.gov/secure_communities/.