Colorado joins federal immigrant identification network

In an effort to modernize the state’s criminal immigrant policies, Colorado has joined the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Secure Communities initiative. According to Governor Ritter, the new program will help the state leverag existing information sharing capabilities between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to identify immigrants who are arrested for a crime and booked into local law enforcement custody.

“Secure Communities is an effective law enforcement tool that will fill a gap in state, local and federal enforcement and help us overcome well-recognized challenges in our public safety network,” Gov. Ritter said in a statement Tuesday. “My office has worked closely with stakeholders and the federal government over the past few months to address Colorado-specific concerns and modify the standard Secure Communities agreement. This means increased reporting, additional data reviews and greater transparency and accountability to ensure Secure Communities is implemented in Colorado in a balanced, fair and effective manner.”

According to ICE, Secure Communities modernizes the identification and removal processes by using fingerprint-based biometric identification technology, prioritizing resources toward the greatest threats, and by sharing information between law enforcement partners. ICE will also provide Colorado with quarterly reports and statistics so the state can assess how the program is working.

Since being launched under President Bush in 2008, nearly 870 local jurisdictions and 35 states participate in Secure Communities. Gov. Ritter appointed a working group that same year to examine gaps in local-state-federal immigration enforcement. Under the program, when a suspected perpetrator is arrested and booked in county jail, state and local law enforcement officials will have access to a federal biometrics database to see if that person has a history with the FBI or ICE.

Congress has appropriated $1.4 billion to ICE to expand criminal immigrant enforcement efforts, including expansion of Secure Communities. The program will be mandatory nationwide in 2013.

The agreement between ICE and Colorado also acknowledges the unique status of domestic violence victims and witnesses under Colorado law. “These Colorado-specific modifications have allowed us to contribute to the national dialogue to improve Secure Communities so it’s better for Colorado today and for the rest of the country when it becomes mandatory in two years,” Gov. Ritter said.

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