A fingerprint-based system that screens for suspected illegal immigrants in local jails led to the identification of more than 111,000 people classified as “criminal aliens” in its first year, reports the Houston Chronicle. The Secure Communities program, launched in 2008 at Houston’s Harris County Jail, uses biometric technology to check the immigration history of all suspects booked into local lockups. The system is in place in 95 jurisdictions.
Secure Communities has proved less controversial than the federal 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. Immigrant advocates are still wary of the program, and have raised concerns that it has swept up somewhat minor offenders. About 10 percent of the 111,000 so-called criminal aliens identified nationally through the program were classified as having convictions for “Level 1” offenses, the most serious crimes. More than 16,500 people identified through the program – including some 1,900 Level 1 offenders – have already been removed from the U.S.