Developed by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the information-sharing capability is the cornerstone of Secure Communities, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiative to enhance efforts to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States.
Prior to the activation of the Secure Communities information-sharing capability, local arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the DOJ biometric system maintained by the FBI. Under the Secure Communities strategy, that fingerprint information will now be simultaneously checked against the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by DHS.
If any 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 a threat to public safety, such as those with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.
"Secure Communities 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 with Secure Communities 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."
"After a thorough vetting of the intent and abilities of the Secure Communities program, I am gratified my deputies have a new tool that provides a very important link when checking out suspicious detainees," said James L. Propotnick, deputy director of law enforcement for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety. "Oftentimes, a deputy will have the instinctive feeling that there is more to the detainee than a normal record check will provide. Now they won't be releasing somebody who should actually be taken into custody, making our community just that much safer."
Across the country, Secure Communities is now being used in 159 jurisdictions in 19 states. By 2013, ICE expects to make Secure Communities available nationwide.
Since its inception in October 2008, Secure Communities has identified more than 21,000 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping - more than 4,900 of those individuals have already been removed from the United States. Most of the criminal aliens who have been identified but not yet removed are completing their sentences. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 28,000 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for 90 percent of the crimes committed by aliens.
Secure Communities is part of DHS's comprehensive plan to distribute technology that links local law enforcement agencies to both FBI and DHS biometric systems. DHS's 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.
"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 Criminal Justice Information Services 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.