DHS terminates biometric deportation program

November 25, 2014 - 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced it has terminated one of its key deportation programs, that was heavily based upon the sharing of biometrics.

This week, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the “Secure Communities” program was discontinued due to litigation, a high level of criticism from other levels of government, and a lack of cooperation from state and local law enforcement officials.

Under the program, more than 283,000 illegal aliens with criminal convictions were removed from the United States. According to statistics, the “Secure Communities” program substantially enhanced the government’s ability to identify and remove illegal aliens who were convicted of committing crime. Between October 2008 and the end of fiscal year 2011, the number of convicted criminals that were removed from the United States increased 89 percent.

The “Secure Communities” program worked by promoting biometric interoperability between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement agencies. Through the program, the FBI automatically sent fingerprints of arrested or booked individuals to DHS to check against immigration and enforcement records in order to determine deportation status.

The discontinuation of the program is concurrent with the Obama Administration’s proposed changes to immigration policy. Last week, the president proposed executive action that could give legal status to an estimated four million undocumented people.

While the “Secure Communities” program has been terminated, Johnson has ordered that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should put in its place a replacement program that will continue to rely on fingerprint-based biometric data submitted during bookings.

DHS has stated that under a replacement program, ICE should only seek the transfer of an illegal alien, who is in state or local law enforcement custody, if that person has been convicted of either terrorism, espionage, poses a danger to national security, or has committed a serious crime.

Under the new proposed program, ICE would also have the power deport those active in a criminal street gang or illegal aliens convicted of an offense classified as a felony in the convicting jurisdiction. ICE would also have the power to deport illegal aliens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, other than minor traffic offenses.

Under a new program, ICE would also be charged to remove undocumented persons who have been convicted of a “significant misdemeanor,” which includes: domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, and driving under the influence. The agency would also have the power to deport an illegal alien who has been sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more.

This proposed focus on “the deportation of criminals and not families” is in line with Obama’s new immigration policy.

Johnson also stated in a departmental memorandum that any successor program “must be implemented in a way that supports community policing and sustains the trust of all elements of the community in working with local law enforcement.”

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at BiometricUpdate.com and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.