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Dallas Jail Among First For Immigration Database

By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – The Dallas County Jail is among the first in the nation to use a new database that provides instant information on the immigration status of anyone in the jail. KERA's BJ Austin reports the new computer interface was turned on yesterday morning.

The Dallas County Jail is one of seven pilot programs nationwide for a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement program. It is based on fingerprints and adds 90 million federal immigration records to the background database available to jailers. Now, everyone booked into the Dallas County Jail will have fingerprints cross checked against the immigration database with immediate response. Dallas ICE Assistant Field Officer Pablo Campos says this will increase deportations.

Campos: We will forward a detainer to the Dallas County Jail basically within minutes of them receiving the initial information. The benefit is this is automated. It's much quicker. We have enhanced transportation, detention space, etc. in order to accommodate what we think might be a spike with Dallas County. People that have minor offenses, if resources permit, we would also place a detainer on them. So far, the Dallas ICE office has been identifying and picking up every person that comes to our attention.

State Representative Rafael Anchia says the focus should be on the "criminal" alien, not the misdemeanor offender.

Anchia: If we can focus on the people who are dealing drugs in our community, who are gang banging in our community, we need to get rid of them. We need to get them out of the United States. They need to be deported. But I would hate to see a grandmother driving without insurance be deported because of some administrative penalty and not a crime.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE, Julie Myers, says this program is all about working "smarter."

Myers: We can actually identify more criminal aliens without having to have a full-time ICE, FTE presence in every institution in the country.

ICE's Pablo Campos says six other county and city jails in North Texas are in the pipeline to join the voluntary program in the next three months or so. This pilot is funded by $200 million appropriated by Congress. ICE wants to have the database program in all local jails in the nation in the next three years at a cost of $2 billion to $3 billion.