Thursday, May 14, 2009
SAN DIEGO San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura counties will become the first in California to begin checking the immigration status of all inmates booked into jail as part of a national effort to identify and deport more illegal immigrants with criminal records, it was reported today.
Law enforcement officials in the three counties will begin running inmates' fingerprints through federal databases this month to see if they have had any contact with the immigration system, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Immigration officials will place holds on those believed to be in the country illegally. Once the inmates have finished serving their sentences, they will be transferred to immigration custody for possible deportation, according to the newspaper.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier launched the program, dubbed Secure Communities, in 48 counties in seven states and plans to expand it to all jails and prisons by the end of 2012. Congress has allocated $350 million for the program in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
More than 40 police agencies throughout Los Angeles County will participate in the new program, enabling law enforcement to screen every inmate booked at any local facility, immigration officials told The Times.
David Venturella, executive director of Secure Communities for ICE, told The Times that the program is much more accurate than the previous system because all inmates -- not just those who say they are foreign-born -- are screened for immigration status.
Convicted felons who have multiple aliases or have lied about being born in the U.S. are being identified under the new program, he said.