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SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Border Patrol has arrested tens of thousands of people with criminal records, including suspected murderers, rapists and child molesters, since the agency last year installed a fingerprinting system that identifies criminals among the 1 million illegal migrants apprehended annually.
The high-tech system is part of a broader effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a “virtual border” to stop terrorists and those with criminal pasts from entering the country.
The fingerprints of all detained illegal immigrants are now matched against the FBI’s national criminal database through scanners installed at all 137 Border Patrol stations along the Mexican and Canadian borders. To process a person, all 10 fingers are rolled across a scanner, and the digitized fingerprint images are compared against the database’s 47 million records. The results usually come back within minutes.
About 30,000 of the 680,000 illegal migrants who were arrested from May through December were identified as having criminal records, compared with about 2,600 during the same period in 2002 — an eleven-fold increase. Criminal illegal immigrants are those with past arrests or convictions for crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder.
Since its start as a pilot program in 2003, the system has identified about 24 people suspected of homicide, 55 of rape and 225 of assault, according to Border Patrol statistics.
(Posted on February 23, 2005)