(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama has asked Congress for a 30 percent increase in funding for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Secure Communities” program – a program launched in March 2008 by the Bush administration to help local jails identify inmates who are in the United States illegally so they can be deported when their prison sentences are completed.
A 2008 fact sheet about the program reported that ICE, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, checked the immigration status of “100 percent” of inmates in state and federal prisons, but only 10 percent of the more than 3,000 local jails in the United States were checking to see if criminals in their facilities were in the country illegally.
Obama included in his proposed 2010 budget $200 million for the program, a 30 percent increase from last year’s funding.
Congress allocated $1.4 billion for ICE criminal alien enforcement for fiscal year 2009, according to ICE.
“Secure Communities” allows local law enforcement access to FBI and ICE fingerprint (biometric) databases for use in determining inmates’ immigration status. Inmates who have not been fingerprinted by federal or state agencies will not be identified through the program.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said that deporting illegal aliens who have committed crimes would be a priority under her leadership.
“That sounds very simple, but it’s historically not been done,” Napolitano said to reporters and immigration officials on Jan. 29.
ICE statistics, however, show that the U.S. government has consistently removed criminal illegal aliens from the country. From Oct. 27, 2008, to April 12, 2009, more than 2,000 “highest priority criminal aliens” were identified, and more than 2,500 criminal aliens were removed from the United States using biometric information, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE estimates that the incarcerated illegal alien population is between 300,000 and 450,000. A priority of the Secure Communities program, according to ICE, is to identify illegal alien criminals who have been charged with “Level 1” offenses, including homicide, kidnapping, assault, robbery, sex offences and national security crimes.
To date, 49 jails around the country are signed on for the Secure Communities program, with national coverage projected for 2012.