DHS Anounces Secure Communities Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deployed the Secure Communities program to all 25 US counties which share a border with Mexico. The program allows authorities to use biometrics data to target and remove aliens in jails and prisons from the US.

On 10 August 2010, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that all 25 US counties which share a border with Mexico will now be protected as part of the Secure Communities program. The Secure Communities program is part of the Obama administration’s plan to improved border security. The program allows authorities with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to find criminal aliens in jails and prisons using biometric information. This allows the US to remove potentially dangerous and criminal immigrants from the US.

The US Takes Steps to Remove Criminal Immigrants

According to Secretary Napolitano, in the past eighteen months, the US has dramatically improved border security by investing in technology, personnel, and new agreements with law enforcement as well as Mexico. Secretary Napolitano believes that the Secure Communities programs provides the “ICE the ability to work with our state and local law enforcement partners to identify criminal aliens who are already in their custody, expediting their removal and keeping our communities safer.”

The use of biometrics as part of the Secure Communities program is made possible through a collaboration with law enforcement, the DHS, and the Department of Justice. The program allows law enforcement officials to gather and store digital fingerprints during any booking process. The fingerprints can then be checked against DHS records of immigration as well as FBI criminal records. Any matches allow the ICE to quickly start deportation or removal processes for criminal immigrants. This helps ensure that criminal immigrants do not spend taxpayer dollars.

Big Steps in the Past 18 Months

In the past year and a half, the Secure Communities program has expended to 544 jurisdictions (from an initial 14 jurisdictions). By the year 2013, the DHS hopes to expand the program to all jurisdictions. Up through August 2010, the Secure Communities program has found more than 262,900 jailed aliens convicted or charged with criminal offenses. Of these, over 39 000 had been charged with major drug or violent offenses. More than 34, 600 aliens convicted of a crime have been deported through the Secure Communities initiative. More than 9, 800 of these have been deported for serious level one offenses, including drug-related crimes and violent crimes.

In addition to the Secure Communities initiative, the Obama administration has also taken other steps to strengthening the US-Mexico border. The administration has added more authorities along the border and has focused on the problem of illegal immigration. As a result, over the past eighteen months, more seizures of illegal drugs and weapons have occurred along the border and the number of border crossings has declined, according to the administration.