Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

ICE touts better tracking of immigrants in local jails

TAMPA — Access to a Homeland Security Department database helped local law enforcement identify more than 111,000 immigrants in custody in the last year who may have faced sanctions from immigration officials, federal authorities announced Thursday.

In October 2008, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began granting local jails access to its records. The initiative, called Secure Communities, extends through 95 jurisdictions across 11 states.

In Florida, 13 counties participate, including Hillsborough, which joined in February, and Pinellas, which joined this week.

"It's just another tool, a resource that we have, to work with the federal government and ICE," said Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats.

Traditionally, as inmates are booked into county jails, their fingerprints were cross checked against an FBI database. The new program allows local jails to automatically run fingerprints of incoming inmates through an ICE database.

That way, local jails know a person's immigration history and can notify ICE when an immigrant has been charged with a crime. Immigration officials then conduct followup interviews with the inmate to determine their next step.

"Access to timely and accurate information about state and local arrests is critical to identifying dangerous criminal aliens," ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton said in a statement.

Col. Jim Previtera, who oversees jails in Hillsborough County, called the process an improvement over the way things used to work.

Previtera said he'd still like to see ICE pick up inmates faster.

"In terms of what we had before and where we are now, we're improving. I don't know if we're there yet," Previtera said.

But he said ICE has been accommodating and addressing problems as they arise.

"I think we're moving in the right direction," he said.

It's unclear whether this program might have prevented an illegal immigrant suspected of robbery and rape from being released from the Hillsborough County jail to allegedly rape again within days.

In July 2008, St. Petersburg police suspected Rigoberto Moron Martinez of rape and robbery at the Table restaurant downtown but lacked evidence.

Hillsborough deputies arrested Martinez a month later on an outstanding domestic violence warrant but he was free again that same day. Ten days later, authorities said, Martinez and two accomplices abducted, robbed and raped two Apollo Beach women.

Last month, Martinez was sentenced to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to the charges.

ICE says its goal is to make sure dangerous people in the country illegally aren't released back into communities.

Kevin Graham can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

ICE touts better tracking of immigrants in local jails 11/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Port Richey man burned, dogs killed in explosion that destroys home

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — A man suffered serious burns and a number of dogs were killed when a house exploded as he was fueling an electric generator, neighbors said.

    An explosion destroyed one home and damaged another on Velvet Drive in Port Richey on Sunday night. One man received critical injuries and a number of dogs died. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Times]
  2. In Case You Missed It: U.S. sailors missing after Navy destroyer collides with oil tanker; Comedians Dick Gregory, Jerry Lewis pass away


    Weekends are great for unwinding, and maybe even unplugging for a little while. Here's what trended that you might have missed if you weren't on social media the last couple days.

    Dick Gregory in Washington, March 10, 2009. Gregory, the pioneering black satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died in Washington on Aug. 19, 2017. He was 84.
  3. Video: How to make a pinhole projector if you didn't score eclipse glasses


    CAPE CANAVERAL — Solar glasses are a must for safe viewing of Monday's total solar eclipse, the first to span coast to U.S. coast in 99 years.

    Follow these simple instructions to make a pinhole projector out of a cereal box. [Photo from video]
  4. Walmart expands grocery delivery service to Tampa


    TAMPA — Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery service to Tampa, the company announced Monday. Five locations will offer delivery for online grocery orders.

    Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery to Tampa, the company announced Monday. | [Times file photo]
  5. Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera won't run for Congress


    Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has decided not to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress, though he may seek another office in 2020.

    Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.