U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began using a federal information sharing capability in Caddo and St. Tammany parishes that helps federal immigration officials use biometrics to identify aliens, both lawfully and unlawfully present in the U.S., who are booked into local law enforcement's custody for a crime. This capability is part of Secure Communities-ICE's strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of aliens convicted of a crime from the U.S.
Previously, biometrics-fingerprints-taken of individuals charged with a crime and booked into 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 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 a tool to identify criminal aliens in local custody," said David Venturella, Assistant Director, Secure Communities. "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 the biometric information sharing capability to Caddo and St. Tammany Parishes, ICE is using this capability in seven Louisiana jurisdictions. Across the country, ICE is using this capability in 792 jurisdictions in 34 states. By 2013, ICE plans to be able to respond nationwide to all fingerprint matches generated through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability.
"The Caddo Sheriff's Office is honored to be the first law enforcement agency selected in our area to participate in this initiative and take advantage of the ICE database. This is another example of local and federal agencies working together to keep our communities safe," said Steve Prator, Caddo Sheriff.
Since ICE began using this enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the U.S. more than 50,600 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.
"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 Roberts, Assistant Director of the FBI's CJIS Division. "Additionally, ICE and the FBI are working together to take advantage of the relationships forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement necessary to assist ICE in achieving its goals."