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Montana counties join federal fingerprint-sharing system to identify illegal immigrants

Lewis and Clark and Missoula counties are the first in Montana to become part of a fingerprint-sharing system that aims to identify illegal and legal aliens while they are in police custody.

The two counties, working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, began using the new system this week, according to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security. The sharing system is part of DHS’s Secure Communities initiative.

Previously, fingerprints taken from people booked into jails were checked only against the Department of Justice’s criminal information database. Now, those prints will also be checked against the DHS’s database, according to the release.

If a match is found in either database, the new system notifies ICE, and agents decide whether and how to respond to the case.

Leo Dutton and Mike McMeekin, sheriff’s off Lewis and Clark and Missoula counties, respectively, both said in the statement that they are pleased to be a part of the fingerprint database system.

This biometric information sharing system now operates in 481 jurisdictions in 27 states, according to the release. Ultimately, the system will be put in place in all Montana jurisdictions, according to an official with the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations who oversees Montana.