Texas biometrics program targets wanted illegal immigrants

Secure Communities is scheduled to be deployed in all U.S. counties by 2013

Texas is going statewide with a Homeland Security Department program that searches the fingerprint records of inmates in local jails in search of illegal immigrants wanted for serious crimes.

The Secure Communities program is scheduled to be adopted by all counties in the United States by 2013, writes Ana Campoy in the Wall Street Journal, although it has drawn criticism from immigrant groups.

DHS says the program is intended to find illegal immigrants wanted for crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping, Campoy writes, but immigrant and civil rights groups say the program also is finding and deporting people with no serious criminal records, occupying courts with minor cases and alienating Latino voters in the process.

Under the program, digital fingerprints collected during the bookings are sent automatically to DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directorate, which checks them against FBI criminal history records and DHS immigration records, according to DHS.

ICE then begins removal proceedings against illegal immigrants who turn up in the matches.

In August, DHS said that Secure Communities had been deployed to all 25 counties along the U.S. Southwestern border, and at 544 jurisdictions overall. As of Aug. 10, the program had identified more than 262,900 illegal immigrants who had been charged with or convicted of crimes, including more than 39,000 involving major violent or drug offenses, according to DHS. More than 34,600 aliens had been deported.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently said that, since 2008, the program has contributed to a 70 percent increase in deportations of criminal suspects who were illegal immigrants, the Journal reported.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is editor of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCaney.

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