Until now, new inmates booked into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system had their fingerprints checked only for criminal history information. But now, each new inmate booked into the Huntsville, Texas, intake site will now also have his or her fingerprints checked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) biometric system for any immigration record.

The TDCJ prison system is the first in the United States to partner with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in this new program, called Secure Communities. This comprehensive program is intended to streamline the process by which ICE determines if the screened inmate is a criminal alien, subject to automatic removal after the inmate completes his or her prison term. Highest priority is given to inmate aliens who have been convicted of crimes such as rape, robbery, murder, kidnapping, and major drug offenses.

Eventually all 24 intake sites in Texas will have the same capability to screen inmates’ immigration history. ICE currently partners with 50 counties and law enforcement agencies across the nation in the Secure Communities program, and looks to expand the program to all law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.

More information about ICE’s Secure Communities effort is available at www.ice.gov. Additional information about TDCJ’s partnership with ICE may be found at: http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0905/090519huntsville.htm.