On Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), announced that ICE is using a new biometric information sharing capability in every Florida county to help federal immigration officials 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 criminal aliens from the United States.
Formerly, during the booking process, arrestees’ fingerprints were checked for criminal history information only against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), a biometric database maintained by the FBI. With the implementation of Secure Communities, this fingerprint information is now automatically and simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records and the biometrics-based immigration records in the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), which is maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
If any fingerprints match those of someone in the 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 offenses first – such as those with convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape and kidnapping.
“This program maximizes the use of biometric technology to exchange critical public safety information,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “FDLE is pleased to work with ICE and local law enforcement to help protect Florida citizens.”
“The Secure Communities strategy provides an effective tool to help ICE identify aliens charged with crimes in law enforcement custody with little or no cost to our law enforcement partners,” said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. “Applying this biometric information sharing tool in Florida improves public safety by enabling ICE to prevent the release of criminal aliens back into our communities when they complete their sentences.”
“This initiative ensures that our local law enforcement partners know as much as possible about the people in their custody,” said Michael W. Meade, ICE field office director for Miami Enforcement and Removals Operations, 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.”
With the expansion of the biometric information sharing capability throughout Florida, ICE is now using it in 392 jurisdictions in 23 states. ICE expects to make it available in jurisdictions nationwide by 2013.
Since ICE began using this enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the United States more than 8,500 criminal aliens convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 22,200 criminal aliens convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for the majority of crimes committed by aliens. Already in Florida, ICE has removed more than 1,800 convicted criminal aliens. 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).
“USVISIT 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.