INS and Criminal databases

1. Relevant INS Automated Systems

In addition to IDENT, the INS maintains numerous other automated database systems. We briefly describe here several other databases that contain information about illegal aliens. Most are text-based systems, rather than automated fingerprint systems. IDENT is not linked to any of these other databases.

a) CIS

The Central Index System (CIS) provides information regarding approximately 45 million aliens who have come into contact with the INS. It contains information on lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens, violators of immigration laws, and others for whom the INS has opened an A-file or in whom the INS has a special interest. It is a centralized text-based system that identifies the location of each alien’s A-file. It includes biographical and status information about the alien, such as name, date of birth, Alien number, country of birth, citizenship, various file control data, dates of INS actions, and identifying numbers. It also contains selected data from other INS databases, such as NAILS and DACS, and links those databases to CIS. CIS is intended to be a “pointer” system that will lead to the alien’s A-file, which should contain complete information on the alien, or to other databases. CIS can be accessed at all levels of the INS.


The National Automated Immigration Lookout System II (NAILS) is a text-based INS database that contains lookouts for aliens who should not be permitted to enter the United States. NAILS is most commonly used by INS inspectors at land, sea, and airport ports of entry, who query NAILS during primary inspection of travelers who are seeking to enter the United States. NAILS contains limited information about the individual, such as some criminal history information. It is also intended to be a “pointer” system to enable the INS inspector to find further information about the traveler in other databases or in an A-file. NAILS records are transferred electronically to the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS)/Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), databases operated and used by the Customs Service on a daily basis. NAILS is unrelated to IDENT, and the two systems are not linked.


The Deportable Alien Control System (DACS) is another centralized text database operated by the INS. It is mainly used by INS Detention and Deportation personnel to track aliens through the removal process. It contains information about aliens who have been detained or placed on a docket for deportation or exclusion. DACS includes the status or disposition of individual deportation cases, as well as statistical and summary data of deportation cases by type, status and other characteristics of the case, as well as biographical data about the alien.

2. Other Databases

The INS has access to other databases operated by other law enforcement entities. Some INS employees can access these databases directly, although Border Patrol agents in the field normally must ask a Law Enforcement Communications Assistant in the sector’s radio room to request a check of the databases. We briefly describe some other relevant databases.

a) Treasury Enforcement Communication System

The Treasury Enforcement Communication System (TECS) is a text-based database, run by the United States Customs Service, which contains information that may be of interest to the Customs Service, the INS, or other law enforcement agencies. TECS keeps track of information and lookouts on suspect individuals, businesses, and vehicles. Through TECS, NCIC records on wanted persons or vehicles and criminal histories can be accessed. Federal, state, and local arrest warrants can also be entered into the system. TECS terminals are located at ports of entry and airports. It is typically used by Customs Service and INS inspectors to check in-coming travelers, including lists of passengers at airports on incoming flights.


The National Crime Information Center database is a text-based database, managed by the FBI, that contains criminal history information on millions of individuals. Established in 1967, it contains records that are submitted by participating federal, state, and local law enforcement entities. NCIC records can be searched by name and at least one other identifier, such as date of birth or FBI number. NCIC consists of 20 files, including wanted persons, deported felons, protective files, sexual offenders, and stolen vehicles. NCIC is also linked to an automated system of criminal history record information (its largest file) known as the Interstate Identification Index (III). This file of records of arrests, convictions, and identifying information about criminals was added in 1983.

In July 1999, NCIC was replaced by the NCIC 2000 system, which is expected to be used by nearly 80,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. In addition to existing NCIC capabilities, NCIC 2000 allows agents in the field in a properly equipped police vehicle to transmit a single fingerprint that is searched against the NCIC wanted, missing, and unidentified person files (about 250,000 subjects). Although not a positive identification, it provides the officer with additional evidence that a potential hit in one of the NCIC person files might be a match.

c) WIN

The Western Identification Network/Automated Fingerprint Identification System (WIN/AFIS) was formed in 1989. It is a central database of about 2.5 million arrest records submitted by seven states and INS. The database contains fingerprint images and text data from ten-print fingerprint cards. Law enforcement personnel can compare fingerprints of apprehended individuals or latent fingerprints against it to determine identity. WIN/AFIS also has the ability to connect to California and Washington State AFIS systems, as well as some local law enforcement agencies within California and King County in Washington State.