BOISE, Idaho - Law enforcement agencies in two Idaho counties, Ada and Canyon, will benefit from a new initiative developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that modernizes the process used to accurately identify and prioritize removable aliens in local custody.
The initiative, Secure Communities, is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and relies on law enforcement partners sharing biometric (fingerprint) information. Using biometric information-sharing technology will enable ICE to better identify aliens at the time they are fingerprinted and booked on criminal charges. 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 offenses first.
Formerly as part of the booking process, arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the DOJ biometric system maintained by the FBI. With the implementation Thursday of Secure Communities in these two counties, the fingerprint information will now be automatically checked against both the FBI criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by the DHS.
If any 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 after offenders complete their prison terms.
"We want to make sure that our local law enforcement partners know as much as possible about the people in their custody," said Steven Branch, ICE's field office director for the Salt Lake City Office of Detention and Removal that includes Idaho. "By using sophisticated biometrics, this tool allows us to quickly and accurately identify aliens who may pose the greatest threat to our communities."
"I take seriously our responsibility to protect the public by identifying criminals and preventing them from committing additional crimes," said Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney. "Secure Communities is a valuable tool that will help us identify criminal aliens in our jail, return them to their country of origin and prevent them from committing further crimes in our community."
Secure Communities bolsters the ongoing joint efforts by ICE and participating law enforcement agencies in the United States. Eventually, with DOJ and other DHS component collaboration, ICE plans to expand this capability to all state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.
Secure Communities is part of DHS' comprehensive plan to distribute technology that links local law enforcement agencies to both FBI and DHS biometric systems. DHS' 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.
The Secure Communities biometric information-sharing technology is currently activated in more than 175 jurisdictions in 20 states. As a result of this technology and ICE's response to date, ICE has removed more than 20,000 convicted criminal aliens who were identified through their fingerprints. 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.
Ada and Canyon Counties, home to more than a third of Idaho's population, are the first Secure Communities jurisdictions in the state.