Database confirms inmate immigration status

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – A federal database now allows local authorities to immediately find out if a person is in the US illegally.

The way this technology works everyone who is sent to jail gets booked. Their fingerprints are taken.  In addition to checking your criminal history, sheriff's deputies can now check your immigration status.

The system wasn't in place to catch 23-year-old Carlos Montano- the Bolivian native accused of driving drunk and killing a catholic nun. Montano has a record of DUI's. Had this federal technology been easily accessed a few years ago-- he could have been detained and deported.

Over the last year, deputies like these in Chesterfield have been able to scan fingerprints. Within a few hours they know an inmate's immigration status. I.C.E., Immigration, Custom's and Enforcement, say it's a success.

"It gives ICE actually a virtual presence at every county jail in the commonwealth," said Enrique Lucero with ICE.

Now once your fingerprint is scanned it's sent to the ICE database. If you're here in the US illegally ICE can request that you stay in jail or it could expedite your deportation.

"ICE is still solely responsible for enforcing immigration law. Local law enforcement is not making a determination if someone's supposed to be here in the country or not. It's left up to ICE," said Lucero.

The focus of the technology is to locate dangerous, convicted illegal immigrants. Some of them are immediately deported. Fed's say each case is different. They couldn't confirm that if Montano's prints were checked--- he would have been out of jail quickly.

The immigration database is available throughout the state. The federal government hopes to have the technology throughout the US in just three years. The database opened up to local authorities two years ago.

97,000 convicted criminal aliens have been booked...more than half of them have already been sent back to their native country.

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