Thursday, August 19, 2010

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Update, August 19, 2010

63 convicted criminal aliens, fugitives arrested in ICE enforcement surge

In the largest operation of its kind ever carried out in Arizona, more than 60 convicted criminal aliens and immigration fugitives have been arrested following a three-day targeted enforcement operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

During the operation, which concluded Wednesday evening, ICE officers located and arrested 55 aliens with prior criminal convictions. In addition, 16 of the individuals ICE officers took into custody were immigration fugitives, aliens with outstanding orders of deportation who had failed to leave the country. Of those arrested during the enforcement action, at least 25 have already been removed from the United States.

At a news conference here Thursday, ICE Director John Morton announced the results of the enforcement action, which involved more than 60 ICE agents and officers, as well as personnel from the U.S. Marshals Service. Those officers fanned out across the state making arrests in Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona , Mesa, Tempe and Prescott.

"These are not people we want to see walking the streets here in Phoenix or in any other community in Arizona," said ICE Director John Morton. "Those who come to the United States to prey upon communities in Arizona will be prosecuted for their crimes and ultimately returned to their home countries.
The results of this operation demonstrate ICE's commitment to that principle."

Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, at least 12 of those arrested during the enforcement surge have been presented for federal prosecution for re-entering the country illegally after a formal deportation. A conviction for felony re-entry carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

"We are dedicated to bringing criminals to justice all along the southwest border, and in particular we will aggressively prosecute offenders with violent criminal convictions and who pose a threat to our communities," said Dennis Burke, U. S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. "We are pleased to stand together with our partners in Homeland Security and the Marshals Service and our state partners in the Offices of Probation and Parole to secure the southwest border through targeted enforcement strategies like today's action."

Among the arrestees is a 45-year-old Mexican woman who was convicted in California for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a scheme that netted her and her conspirators more than $820,000.

Also arrested was a 55-year-old Mexican man who was convicted of selling methamphetamine in 2003. This individual has already been convicted once of felony re-entry into the United States in 2009, and following this arrest he will be prosecuted again in federal court.

The foreign nationals detained during the operation who are not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining aliens are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.

Of those arrested, 52 were male and 11 were female. They represent 9 different nations, including countries in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.

This week's special enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing at large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives - aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by the nation's immigration courts. ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams (FOTs) give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of trans-national street gangs and child sex offenders.

The officers who conducted this week's operation received substantial assistance from ICE's Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) located in South Burlington, Vt. The FOSC conducted exhaustive database checks on the targeted cases to help ensure the viability of the leads and accuracy of the criminal histories. The FOSC was established in 2006 to improve the integrity of the data available on at large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives nationwide. Since its inception, the FOSC has forwarded more than 550,000 case leads to ICE enforcement personnel in the field. In addition, leads were developed through the assistance of the Arizona Supreme Court Adult Probation Division.

ICE's Fugitive Operations Program is just one facet of the Department of Homeland Security's broader strategy to heighten the federal government's effectiveness at identifying and removing dangerous criminal aliens from the United States. Other initiatives that figure prominently in this effort are the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities and the agency's partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies under 287(g).

Largely as a result of these initiatives, ICE removed a total of 136,126 criminal aliens from the United States last year, a record number.

ICE arrests 11 gang members and associates in Madison, Wis., area

MADISON, Wis. - Agents with the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in close partnership with the Madison Police Department (MPD), arrested 11 illegal alien gang members and gang associates on Tuesday. This is the latest joint local action of an ongoing national ICE HSI effort to target foreign-born members of violent street gangs.

The arrests were made Aug. 11 under an initiative by ICE's National Gang Unit dubbed "Operation Community Shield." As part of the initiative, ICE partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs. Partnerships with local law enforcement agencies are essential to the initiative's success, and they help further ensure officer safety during the operations.

All 11 men arrested are members or associates of the Chicano Pride and C-14 street gangs; all are Mexican nationals. They have been charged with administrative immigration violations and are being processed for deportation. Five of those arrested have previous criminal convictions in addition to their immigration violations. Some of their arrests and convictions include: carrying a concealed weapon, resisting or obstructing a police officer, battery, theft and criminal damage to property. For privacy reasons, ICE does not release the names of those arrested on administrative immigration charges.

In addition to the Madison Police Department, ICE received assistance from the following agencies: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Wisconsin; and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

"Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities in the Madison area," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in Chicago. "With each gang member we arrest and remove from the United States, we're making a positive impact in our communities and improving public safety."

"The arrests during this joint operation with ICE are consistent with what the MPD has stated in the past: we are focused on removing violent gang members from the streets of Madison," said Madison Police Chief Noble Wray. "It is a matter of public safety, and we will work in concert with federal authorities to diminish potential threats. This in no way; however, changes our approach and philosophy in dealing with other members of our immigrant communities."

ICE's National Gang Unit identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Through Operation Community Shield, the federal government uses its powerful immigration and customs law enforcement authorities in a coordinated, national campaign against criminal street gangs in the United States. Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling, immigration violations and other crimes with a connection to the border.

Since ICE began Operation Community Shield in February 2005, more than 18,000 gang members and associates belonging to more than 900 different gangs have been arrested nationwide.

The public is encouraged to report suspicious activity by calling the ICE toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock.

5 more Texas counties to benefit from ICE strategy to enhance the identification, removal of criminal aliens

Uses biometrics to prioritize immigration enforcement actions against convicted criminal aliens

SAN ANGELO, Texas-On Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began using a new biometric information-sharing capability in five more Texas counties - Borden, Gaines, Mitchell, Scurry and Sterling counties - that helps federal immigration officials identify aliens, both lawfully and unlawfully present in the United States, who are booked into local law enforcement's custody for a crime. This capability is part of Secure Communities - ICE's comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States.

Previously, fingerprint-based biometric records were taken of individuals charged with a crime and booked into custody and checked for criminal history information against the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Now, through enhanced information sharing between DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), fingerprint information submitted through the state to the FBI will be automatically checked against both the FBI criminal history records in IAFIS and the biometrics-based immigration records in DHS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).

If fingerprints match those of someone in DHS's biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE. ICE evaluates each case to determine the individual's immigration status and takes appropriate enforcement action. This includes aliens who are in lawful status and those who are present without lawful authority. Once identified through fingerprint matching, ICE will respond with a priority placed on aliens convicted of the most serious offences first-such as those with convictions for major drug offences, murder, rape and kidnapping.

"The Secure Communities strategy provides ICE with an effective tool to identify criminal aliens in local custody," said Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. "Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE's mission. Our goal is to use biometric information sharing to remove criminal aliens, preventing them from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our law enforcement partners."

With the expansion of the biometric information sharing capability to these 5 Texas counties, ICE is now using it in 193 Texas jurisdictions. Across the country, ICE is using this capability in 553 jurisdictions in 29 states. ICE plans to be able to respond to leads generated through the biometric information sharing capability nationwide by 2013.

"The Scurry County Sheriff's Office is pleased to work side by side with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and assist them in the removal of Criminal Aliens who victimize our communities," said Scurry County Sheriff Darren Jackson. "Like all groups of people, there are honest hard-working people who are in our country legally and do not pose a danger to citizens, and we appreciate and respect their contributions to our communities. This program targets those who violate the laws of this Country and State and create a burden for the local taxpayers. We believe that by working with ICE to remove this group of individuals from our communities we can truly make our streets and neighborhoods a safer place to live."

Since ICE began using this enhanced information sharing capability in October 2008, immigration officers have removed from the United States more than 10,800 criminal aliens convicted of Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping. Additionally, ICE has removed more than 27,000 criminal aliens convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for the majority of crimes committed by aliens. ICE does not regard aliens charged with, but not yet convicted of crimes, as "criminal aliens." Instead, a "criminal alien" is an alien convicted of a crime. In accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE continues to take action on aliens subject to removal as resources permit.

The IDENT system is maintained by DHS's US-VISIT program and IAFIS is maintained by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

"US-VISIT is proud to support ICE, helping provide decision makers with comprehensive, reliable information when and where they need it," said US-VISIT Director Robert Mocny. "By enhancing the interoperability of DHS's and the FBI's biometric systems, we are able to give federal, state and local decision makers information that helps them better protect our communities and our nation."

"Under this plan, ICE will be utilizing FBI system enhancements that allow improved information sharing at the state and local law enforcement level based on positive identification of incarcerated criminal aliens," said Daniel D. Roberts, assistant director of the FBI's CJIS Division. "Additionally, ICE and the FBI are working together to take advantage of the strong relationships already forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement necessary to assist ICE in achieving its goals."

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