Screening For Criminal Illegals Goes Hi-Tech At Victor Valley Jail

Screening for criminal illegals goes hi-tech at Victor Valley Jail: Deputies have seen a 20 percent increase in identification of illegals

By Beatriz E. Valenzuela
The Daily Press (Victorville, CA), July 5, 2009

Victorville, CA — The Victor Valley Jail recently acquired a new tool to help identify and deport illegal criminals in the county jail system.

Utilizing the same technology the county courts have been using for video arraignments, now San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department custody specialists will be able to conduct interviews with potential criminal aliens via a video monitor.

'We used to have to wait for the (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents to come to the jail to screen for illegal criminals. Now everyone coming through the front door we are able to interview remotely,' said Sgt. Sarkis Ohannessian at West Valley Detention Center.

Locally, this has allowed officials to identify more criminal aliens who in the past may have been let loose.

Since the Sheriff 's Department began conducting its own screenings, the number of people placed in a deportation retainer has increased by 20 percent since last year.

In 2005, ICE officials placed a total of 525 people on detainers for deportation. In 2007, custody specialists were able to place 507 on the same detainers in only the first quarter of the year, officials said, and that number continues to rise with the addition of the video screening equipment.

The system uses Internet tele-conferencing technology to connect the screeners at West Valley Detention Center with the jails in Victorville, Barstow, Morongo and the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino.

'If one of the specialists has a question once they have run the person through both ours and the federal system, they can request to speak the person face-to-face, on the video screen,' Ohannessian said.

Custody specialists run the person's name a n d S o c i a l S e c u r i ty number or alien number through several databases to determine whether the person is in the country legally or illegally, according to officials.

Some legal immigrants may also be deportable because of their criminal activity, officials said.

Some of the deportable offenses for lawful residents include child abuse, drug convictions and deviant and violent crimes.

Once that has been established, they are placed on detainer for deportation.

After the criminal aliens complete their sentences in the United States, they will be deported.

Being able to identify more criminal aliens has also allowed officials to get a better handle on how many illegal criminals have re-entered the United States after being deported.

'Seven percent of individuals deported from this county have come back and have been rearrested,' Ohannessian said.

'That doesn't count those that have not yet been arrested and may be hiding out there,' he added.