Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that Colorado will join 35 other states in the Secure Communities initiative, which partners local, state and federal agencies nationwide to improve public safety, national security and crime-fighting.
Nearly 870 jurisdictions across the country are participating in the voluntary program established under the Bush administration in 2008 and expected to become mandatory nationally by 2013.
The Secure Communities initiative is operated by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The program electronically links participating local agencies to the federal government. It provides an electronic notification to the arresting and booking law enforcement agency of any arrestee who is known to be an alien or is a known threat to national security as well as if the arrestee has a previous arrest record. The program does not change the arrest or booking process in any other way.
"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. "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."
ICE will provide Colorado with quarterly reports and statistics so the state can assess how the program is working. The agreement 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.
Colorado's participation in Secure Communities is supported by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and County Sheriffs of Colorado. For more information about Secure Communities, click here to visit the ICE website.
* The Secure Communities initiative was launched by former President Bush in 2008. Harris County, Texas, was the first community to take part. The program enables participating local police agencies to run the fingerprints of those who are arrested and booked into county jail through federal databases to determine if a detainee is in the country illegally and if they have a previous arrest record.
* Nearly 870 local jurisdictions and 35 states are now taking part in the program with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
* 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.
Secure Communities -- How it Works
* Secure Communities is built on three pillars that address the challenges of accurately identifying and successfully removing criminal immigrants from the U.S. by:
1.) Identifying criminal immigrants through modernized information sharing.
2.) Prioritizing enforcement actions to ensure apprehension and removal of dangerous criminal immigrants.
3.) Transforming enforcement processes and systems to achieve lasting results
* Under Secure Communities, when a person is arrested and booked into county jail, their fingerprints will be sent through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to the FBI Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Fingerprints submitted by CBI to the FBI will be simultaneously checked against both the FBI criminal history records and ICE's immigration records.
* If there is a "hit," meaning that the arrested person is matched to a record indicating an immigration contact, an automated message will be returned to the local agency, CBI, and ICE. ICE, in partnership with the local agency, will evaluate each case to determine if enforcement action is needed and whether it has the resources to process the case.
* If ICE wishes to proceed, it will issue a detainer on the individual. ICE and local law enforcement will give top priority to individuals who pose the greatest threat to Colorado public safety, such as those with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.
* While Secure Communities provides local police agencies with an electronic link to the FBI and ICE databases, local agencies have been able to make that link even without Secure Communities, manually via a phone call, although only searching names and not fingerprints.
Secure Communities in Colorado
* Gov. Ritter appointed a working group in late 2008 to examine gaps in local-state-federal immigration enforcement.
* Among the group's recommendations: that Colorado take part in the Secure Communities initiative. The Colorado Department of Public Safety began exploring the program and communicating with ICE, and Governor Ritter's office began soliciting statewide public input from a variety of stakeholders.
* That input prompted Gov. Ritter to request Colorado-specific changes to the standard Secure Communities memorandum of understanding. As a result, Colorado will receive quarterly reports with data about how the program is being used, which will be reviewed by the Colorado Department of Public Safety. This means additional data and greater transparency and accountability.
* The agreement with Colorado also acknowledges the unique status under state law of domestic violence victims and witnesses.
* This is another example of Colorado's pragmatic and common-sense approach to problem-solving, in this case by adjusting a responsible crime-fighting tool to meet Colorado's specific needs.
* Colorado's participation in Secure Communities is supported by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and County Sheriffs of Colorado.