6 Illinois counties to benefit from ICE strategy to enhance the identification, removal of criminal aliens Now the criminal and immigration records of all local arrestees to be checked

ILLINOIS - On Tuesday, law enforcement agencies in six Illinois counties - Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair, Will and Winnebago - began employing a new information-sharing capability made available by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) as part of the Secure Communities strategy. Secure Communities is ICE's comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States.

Previously, local arrestees' fingerprints were taken and checked for criminal history information against the Department of Justice's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) maintained by the FBI. Now, as part of the Secure Communities strategy, fingerprint information submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies will now be simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records in IAFIS and the biometrics-based immigration records in the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).

If fingerprints match those of someone in DHS's biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE, enabling the agency to take appropriate action to ensure criminal aliens are not released back into communities. Top priority is given to individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety, such as those with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.

"The Secure Communities strategy provides local law enforcement with an effective tool to identify criminal aliens," said Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. "Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE's mission. Our goal is to use biometric information sharing to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our law enforcement partners."

With the expansion of the information-sharing capability to these six counties, there are now eight Illinois counties using this tool, including DuPage and Kane. Secure Communities is now being used by 159 jurisdictions in 19 states across the country. ICE expects this capability to be available nationwide by 2013.

"This enforcement effort, through the modernization of fingerprint records, will dramatically enhance law enforcement's ability to effectively identify, prioritize, and take appropriate action when dealing with criminal aliens," said Sheriff Robert J. Hertz of Madison County. "All of which will be accomplished utilizing the single submission of fingerprints already being done at the local level."

"The partnership existing between ICE and the McHenry County Sheriff's Office will result in a better and safer community for everyone," said McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren.

"The Lake County Sheriff's Office continues to work with the fine professionals of ICE to make our county as safe as possible," said Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran Jr. "This is why we have committed a full-time officer to ICE."

"Working together and enhancing technology to ensure fugitives and law breakers do not get away from justice are very important aspects of what we do everyday," said St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl J. Justus.

Since ICE began using this information-sharing capability in October 2008, ICE has identified more than 21,700 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping - more than 4,900 of whom have already been removed from the United States. Most of the aliens subject to removal who have been identified but not yet removed are in legal proceedings or completing their sentences. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 28,400 aliens charged with or convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for approximately 90 percent of the crimes committed by aliens.

The IDENT system is maintained by DHS's US-VISIT program, and IAFIS is maintained by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

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