Pilot program expands fingerprint databases

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is providing network links to jails in six counties in North Carolina and Texas to allow local authorities to better check fingerprints of criminal suspects against national law enforcement and immigrant databases, ICE officials have announced. 

ICE operates the Secure Communities program in cooperation with the Homeland Security and Justice departments and hopes to expand it to county jails nationwide by spring 2009, according to a news release dated Nov. 12.

The agency's primary goal is getting assistance from local law enforcement organizations to identify criminal aliens eligible for deportation. ICE estimates local police each year detain about 300,000 to 500,000 aliens who are criminals and potentially eligible for deportation.

Currently, law enforcement agencies submit fingerprints to the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System of criminal records. In addition, local officers who have trained with ICE are able to check fingerprints against DHS' Automated Biometric Identification System for visitors and aliens.

Under the program, local law enforcement agencies will be able to request fingerprints from both databases more broadly, and with a single request. ICE estimates that local police each year detain about 300,000 to 500,000 criminal aliens potentially eligible for deportation.

The key to the improved efficiencies is interoperability between the DHS and Justice fingerprint databases, ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers said in the release.

"Interoperability will create a virtual ICE presence at every local jail, allowing us to identify and ultimately remove dangerous incarcerated criminal aliens from our communities," Myers said. "Using this technology, we will build upon the remarkable success we have had working with state and local law enforcement, and we will revolutionize the process of identifying criminal aliens in custody."

Six counties, including Dallas and Harris in Texas, and Buncombe, Gaston, Henderson and Wake in North Carolina, are participating in the pilot demonstration program. 001000

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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