ORLANDO, Fla. - Eight Florida counties have successfully implemented a new information-sharing capability made available by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) - called Secure Communities - that will help identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States.
Law enforcement agencies in Escambia, Leon, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota, and Volusia counties will now use the system to check the criminal and immigration records of everyone arrested and booked into the local jails via the Secure Communities initiative.
"We want to make sure that our local law enforcement partners know as much as possible about the people in their custody," said David Bradley, ICE's acting deputy field office director for Miami Field Office of Detention and Removal, the office overseeing the Secure Communities initiative in Florida. "By using sophisticated biometrics, this tool allows us to quickly and accurately identify those criminal aliens who pose the greatest threat to our communities."
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."
With the expansion of the information-sharing capability to these eight counties, there are now 24 Florida counties using this tool, including Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Duval, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Marion, Miami Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, St. John's, and St. Lucie counties. Secure Communities is now being used by 168 jurisdictions in 20 states across the country. ICE expects this capability to be available nationwide by 2013.
"This program maximizes the use of biometric technology to exchange critical public safety information," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "FDLE is pleased to work with ICE and local law enforcement to help protect Florida citizens."
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.