An electronic database is making it easier for law enforcement agencies to identify illegal immigrants locked up for crimes in California. Federal immigration officials have linked their fingerprint files to police and sheriffs' departments in all the state’s 58 counties.
The program is called “Secure Communities.” If you’re charged with a crime anywhere in California, law enforcement will check your fingerprints against a Department of Homeland Security database. If you’ve had a previous brush with immigration officials, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, will step in.
Tim Robbins, field office director for ICE, says the agency doesn’t screen everyone.
"We’re limited when it comes to resources," he says. "So we prioritize."
ICE targets people convicted of serious crimes – murder, kidnapping, major drug offenses. Immigration officials usually wait until after a felon’s served his or her sentence before they take action.
Over the past two years, ICE has taken custody of nearly 48,000 convicted criminal aliens in California. It’s deported about half of them.