Fairfax County delivered more than 1,200 suspected illegal immigrants to federal enforcement officials in the last year, a spike attributed to an increasingly popular criminal records-sharing system.
As part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Secure Communities program — implemented last March — the fingerprints of those arrested are compared with immigration records held by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI criminal records at no cost to the county.
"There was no program before," said Fairfax sheriff's office spokesman Sonny Cachuela. "The only way to identify them was if they told us."
Cachuela said the county turned over 836 suspected illegal immigrants to ICE in the year before the program started.
ICE deported 144 illegal immigrants arrested in the county this past year, and Cachuela said the rest are in immigration proceedings or will be removed from the country once they complete jail time.
The federal government plans to roll out the system by 2013 in "literally every single city and county in the United States," according to ICE officials.
Fairfax County was the first in the Washington area to employ the program. The District and Prince William County also use Secure Communities.
Prince William, which through the federal 287(g) program allows local law enforcement officials to enforce some federal immigration laws, has turned over more than 2,000 suspected illegals to the federal government since July 2007. In comparison, Montgomery County officials report illegals to ICE only for violent crimes.
Immigration advocates have decried 287(g) as racial profiling but protest less about turning over information from those already in jail.
Every person booked into Fairfax County's adult detention center has his fingerprints cross-referenced with the federal records.
"ICE has been able to identify illegal aliens that committed serious crimes in Fairfax County and presented a threat to our community," said Sheriff Stan Barry. "Through this program, ICE was able to deport them at no cost to Fairfax County."