The U.S. is expanding a Bush administration program aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails, the Washington Post reports. The measure could result in a tenfold increase in illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation. By matching inmates’ fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable illegal immigrants before they are released from custody.
The effort is likely to reshape immigration enforcement, current and former executive branch officials said. It comes as the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress vow to crack down on illegal immigrants who commit crimes, rather than those who otherwise abide by the law. The program began as a pilot effort in October and operates in 48 counties across the U.S.; this year, fingerprints from 1 million local jail bookings will be screened under the program. It also operates in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Boston, and Phoenix, and will expand to nearly all local jails by the end of 2012.