Forsyth jail joins fingerprint program aimed at illegal immigrants

Forsyth County’s jail on Tuesday became the latest to join a federal fingerprint-checking program aimed at deporting violent illegal immigrants.

Under the $200 million national program, everyone booked into the jail will have their fingerprints checked against millions of others held in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database. That database includes prints from a variety of people, including those who have applied for visas or who have been caught crossing the border illegally.

When matches are found, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could seek to deport people, but only after their criminal charges have been adjudicated and after they have completed sentences for any crimes committed in the U.S.

Citing limited resources, ICE officials say they are first focusing on deporting people who have committed violent crimes, including killers, rapists and robbers.

Jailers don’t have to do anything different to participate. They already fingerprint people booked into their jails. And officials are already checking those prints against those held in state and federal databases to confirm identities and search for criminal records.

The Secure Communities program is scheduled to be up and running across the metro Atlanta area by the end of September, according to ICE, and it is expected to cover all jails in Georgia by the end of September 2013.

Critics have cited ICE’s own figures which show most of the people deported through the program were nonviolent offenders or people who have committed no crimes other than being in the country illegally. Proponents say the program prevents illegal immigrants from fooling them with aliases.