YUBA CITY, Calif. — On Tuesday, five northern California counties – Colusa, Nevada, Plumas, Sutter and Tehama – became the latest in the state to benefit from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal information-sharing capability that helps federal immigration officials use biometrics to identify aliens, both lawfully and unlawfully present in the United States, who are booked into local law enforcement's custody for a crime.
This capability is part of Secure Communities – ICE's comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of aliens convicted of a crime from the United States.
Prior to the activation of Secure Communities, fingerprint-based biometric records taken of individuals charged with a crime and booked into local 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).
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.
"The Secure Communities strategy provides ICE with an effective tool to identify criminal aliens in local custody," said Secure Communities Assistant Director David Venturella. "Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE's mission. Our goal is to use biometric information sharing to remove criminal aliens, preventing them 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 these five additional California counties, ICE is now using this biometric information-sharing capability in 46 jurisdictions statewide. Across the country, ICE has activated Secure Communities in 998 jurisdictions in 37 states. By 2013, ICE plans to be able to respond nationwide to all fingerprint matches generated through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability.
"Secure Communities will be a much needed and helpful tool for Sutter County law enforcement," said Sutter County Sheriff J. Paul Parker. "In the last year alone, our neighbors to the south, Sacramento County, have identified 192 Level 1 offenders, which includes those convicted of serious or violent crimes, such as murder, sexual assault and robbery and 560 criminal aliens overall. Without the assistance of ICE and their Secure Communities program, many of these criminal aliens would have gone through the system undetected."
Since ICE began using this enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the United States more than 59,300 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.
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 about how ICE is using biometrics to identify aliens convicted of a crime, visit www.ice.gov/secure-communities.