Fairfax gearing up for federal illegal immigrant checks at jails
Fairfax County officials are pushing to get the local sheriff to hurry up and institute a new federal program that will automate illegal immigrant fingerprint checks at local jails.
"Immigration reform and enforcement is an extremely sensitive and complex federal issue but one with very real local impact, and one this board should have a detailed discussion on soon," said Supervisor Patrick S. Herrity (R-Springfield). "One area where I think we all do agree is that those who are here illegally and commit serious or violent crimes should be removed from the community and deported."
This past fall, Herrity asked Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry about the Secure Communities program, a federal effort to streamline fingerprint checks on suspected illegal immigrants arrested on suspicion of other crimes. Barry said his office's application to the federal 287(g) program -- essentially a local agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold and turn over suspected criminal illegal immigrants -- was rejected after officials said they were swamped with requests. Instead, Barry said, his office had begun evaluating the Secure Communities program.
Now Herrity is asking for more details on the new request, including when Barry is expected to institute the program and the numbers of inmates housed in Fairfax County jails who are accused of serious or violent crimes. Barry was invited to update the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The Fairfax County Sheriff's Office was the first law enforcement agency in the Washington region to receive access to Secure Communities, which will enable ICE agents to check available criminal and immigration records of every individual booked by sheriff's deputies.
The focus will be on identifying criminal aliens who have been convicted of Level 1 crimes, which include major drug offenses and violent offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping. ICE agents plan to interview inmates using video teleconferencing equipment in the county's Adult Detention Center.
In March, Barry called the program a "win-win situation." "We will be able to identify illegal immigrants who commit crimes in Fairfax County and get them in the process for deportation, and it does not require additional funds or manpower from us," he said.
Inmates' fingerprints also will be checked against criminal records in the Department of Justice's biometric system, which is maintained by the FBI, and biometrics-based records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security
Earlier this month, the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office announced a nearly $1.5 million reimbursement grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for portions of the costs of incarcerating undocumented aliens accused of serious crimes.
The grant came from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which provides federal grants to states and localities that have incurred salary costs for incarcerating illegal aliens. The Sheriff's Office was one of only 900 (out of 3,140) eligible departments nationwide that got the funding help; Fairfax County hired a Dallas consulting firm, Justice Benefits Inc., to help obtain the "hard-to-find" federal reimbursement.
Meanwhile, Manassas, Prince William and Loudoun counties are entering into new agreements with the Department of Homeland Security for the 287(g) local illegal immigration enforcement program. All participating agencies were told to accept a new agreement by mid-October or be dropped from the program; the changes are meant to standardize the program after a U.S. Government Accountability Office report concluded that some of the agencies in the program had overstepped their authority.
October 19, 2009; 4:16 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
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