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Sheriff's comments on ICE's new program
Date: 06/24/2010
Janice Atkinson
Public Information Officer
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began using a new biometric information sharing capability in Hamilton County on June 22 that helps 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 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 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.

"We want to make sure that our local law enforcement partners know as much as possible about the people in their custody," said Philip Miller, field office director for ICE in New Orleans. "By using sophisticated biometrics, the Secure Communities initiative allows us to quickly and accurately identify aliens who pose the greatest threat to our communities. And the program requires no additional costs to the local law enforcement agency."

"We applaud the efforts of ICE in working with us to remove dangerous criminals from within Hamilton County," said Sheriff Jim Hammond. "This is yet another example of local and federal agencies working together effectively to keep our communities safe."

Secure Communities bolsters the ongoing joint efforts by ICE and participating law enforcement agencies in the United States. Secure Communities is DHS' comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States.

With the expansion of the biometric information sharing capability to Hamilton County, ICE is now using it in 336 jurisdictions in 22 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. 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.

For more information, visit www.ice.gov/secure_communities.

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