S. Utah counties to join program to deport criminal immigrants

Crime • Jails run fingerprints against federal immigration database.
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Washington • Three southern Utah counties have joined a partnership between local jails and federal immigration agents to find undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and deport them.

The "Secure Communities" program runs the fingerprints of everyone booked into jail against a federal immigration database, alerting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when they find a match.

The federal government is slowly growing the program with hopes of taking it nationwide in 2013. So far six counties in Utah are participating, including Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, Weber, Box Elder and Cache.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a proponent of the program, announced Wednesday that Washington, Sevier and Beaver are ready to join that list.

"Secure Communities is another tool for local law enforcement to use to rid our communities of criminal aliens who are committing crimes," Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said in a statement.

Since March, the program has identified 44 immigrants in local custody charged or convicted of crimes, including a dozen convicted of serious offenses. Seventeen have since been deported.

Matt Canham