Houston’s Harris County Sheriff’s Office has became the nation’s first local law enforcement agency to test an automated fingerprint check system that gives jailers full access to suspects’ immigration history, reports the Houston Chronicle. The new program provides a seamless and simultaneous check of immigration and criminal history by linking the FBI’s database with the Department of Homeland Security’s database, known as IDENT (the Automated Biometric Identification System).
Gregory Palmore of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in Houston said the sheriff was selected to lead the pilot program in part because Houston has “one of the largest criminal alien populations in the United States.” Under the new system, Harris County jailers will have full access to millions of immigration records in the IDENT database, Palmore said. When a suspect is booked into the Harris County Jail, his fingerprints will be checked against the FBI system and the immigration database simultaneously. ny “hits” for non-citizens will be referred to ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center for more investigation.