Fingerprinting system deports dangerous illegal immigrants

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- Illegal immigrants have met their match at the Benton County Jail. KEPR discovered a new fingerprinting system has gone a long way at making our streets safer.

It starts with the simple scan of a fingerprint. Then, before you know it, some of the Tri-Cities most dangerous prisoners are being shipped out, headed to where they originally came from.

"Any time we can get someone out of our community who is a threat to children, or the public, that's a good thing," says Commander Jon Law, Benton County Sheriff's Office.

On any given day, there are more than a dozen illegal immigrants behind bars at the Benton County Jail. To stem that tide, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement unveiled Secure Communities, a program that uses fingerprints to check an inmate's criminal history and then deports them if they're here illegally.

More than a year after Secure Communities came to the Tri-Cities, KEPR is looking into how successful it's actually been. Since July 2011, we learned it has identified 539 illegal immigrants at the Benton County jail. And of that total, more than 80 were deported for violent crimes like rape, assault, and robbery. Authorities tell Action News it's freed up space at the jail, while also saving precious time.

"They identify those people who need to be deported and leave our community and there's less likelihood we would see them again," Commander Law tells KEPR.

Jail workers say Secure Communities is meant to go after society's most dangerous criminals: people who snuck in this country without permission and committed violent crimes.

Homeland Security pays for Secure Communities, so it doesn't cost Benton County a dime.