Enhanced Federal Information Sharing Means Safer Virginia Communities

ICE prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens based on threat Each year, law enforcement officers nationwide arrest approximately one million non‑U.S. citizens. With federal agencies maintaining separate identification records for criminal and immigration history information, identifying those aliens convicted of a crime—criminal aliens—has been no easy task. However, better federal information sharing is making criminal alien identification easier and more accurate and ultimately leads to the removal of more criminal aliens, meaning Virginia communities will be safer.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have made their biometric criminal and immigration systems interoperable. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is using the interoperability of these systems to quickly and accurately identify aliens when they are arrested and booked by law enforcement. Beginning today, June 15, ICE officers will be notified automatically of alien arrests in the state of Virginia, helping them to remove those convicted of crimes. This is happening at no cost to Virginia sheriffs, nor does it require any change to their daily operations.

As of this week, ICE is using this biometric information sharing capability to identify aliens in local custody in 337 jurisdictions in 21 states, including all jurisdictions in Virginia. Since ICE began using the capability in October 2008, immigration officials have removed more than 30,800 criminal aliens.

For example, in Fairfax County, fingerprint records of a man arrested for solicitation of prostitution were cross checked through the biometric criminal and immigration systems, revealing he was a criminal alien with prior convictions for felony drug possession, second degree assault, felony robbery and first degree attempted armed robbery. The records check also revealed that the man had been encountered by law enforcement 13 times under multiple aliases, and he had previously been denied U.S. citizenship. ICE issued a detainer and is processing him so he may be removed from the United States once his sentence is complete.

The use of this capability is part of ICE’s comprehensive strategy, called Secure Communities, to improve the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States. Also as part of this strategy, ICE is prioritizing immigration enforcement action against those who are or become subject to removal based on their criminal convictions. Top priority is given to criminal aliens who pose the greatest threat to public safety, such as those convicted of major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.

Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry called the Secure Communities strategy a “win-win situation.” He said, “We will be able to identify illegal immigrants who commit crimes in Fairfax County and get them in the process for deportation, and it does not require additional funds or manpower from us.”[1]

Loudon County Sheriff Steve Simpson also expressed support by saying, “Secure Communities will only improve our local efforts in removing criminal aliens from the country who are involved in gang activity and other serious crimes in our community.”[2]

Through Secure Communities, ICE maintains its authority to enforce immigration law and does not cede immigration enforcement authority to local law enforcement officers or ask them to participate in immigration enforcement. ICE plans to make this capability available nationwide by 2013.

As ICE works to keep communities safe by removing criminal aliens from the United States, the agency values the support of Virginia sheriffs. For more information about the Secure Communities strategy, visit www.ice.gov/secure_communities.

[1] “5 Va. Jurisdictions Join Federal Program Targeting Violent Illegal Immigrants,” Washington Examiner, April 13, 2010

[1] “New Technology Aids In Illegal Alien ID,” Leesburg Today, April 20, 2010

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