DALLAS - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its law enforcement partners arrested 284 foreign nationals with criminal records during a three-day enforcement surge throughout Texas, making it the biggest operation targeting at-large criminal aliens ever carried out by ICE in the state.
During the operation, which concluded late Thursday, ICE officers and agents worked in teams with the U.S. Marshals Service, Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service and local law enforcement agencies. Of the 284 arrested, nearly 160 foreign nationals have violent criminal histories - such as homicide, assault and robbery - and more than 20 have convictions for sexual offenses. Of the total arrested, 18 have already been removed from the country.
At a news conference Friday morning, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton announced the results of the special operation, which involved more than 280 federal and local law enforcement officers and agents. Assistant Secretary Morton cited the operation as another example of the vital role multi-agency cooperation and targeted immigration enforcement play in protecting our communities.
"We are a compassionate nation with a proud history of immigration," said Morton. "But we are also a nation governed by laws specifically designed to protect its citizens and residents. Those who come to the United States to prey upon our neighbors and communities will be prosecuted for their crimes and ultimately returned to their home countries. The results of this week's operation demonstrate ICE's commitment to that principle."
Arrests in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area accounted for the largest number of apprehensions during the operation where a total of 119 criminal aliens were taken into custody. San Antonio recorded the next highest number of arrests with 73. The arrestees, 259 men and 25 women, represent more than 22 different nations, including countries in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, at least 23 of those arrested during the enforcement surge face federal prosecution for illegally reentering the country after being formally deported. A conviction for felony reentry carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Some of the worst of the offenders caught this week during Operation Cross Check include the following case examples:
- Juan Jose Lopez-Juarez, 36, from Mexico, was arrested at his home with the help of the Dallas County Constable Precinct Four. He was targeted and arrested in Dallas and is wanted in Michoacán, Mexico, for shooting and killing a 17-year-old boy while his mother pleaded for his life. Lopez-Juarez was originally deported in June 2000. ICE learned about his whereabouts from a tip made to our 24-hour tipline.
- Angel Gonzalez, from Mexico, was arrested Feb. 24 by ICE at his residence in Austin, Texas. He has a previous criminal history including a sexual offense against a child for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. Afterwards, ICE deported him. The U.S Attorney in the Western District of Texas has accepted him for prosecution for reentry after deportation.
- Ruiz Pina, from Mexico, was arrested by ICE agents in Houston on Feb. 24. He has convictions for unlawfully possessing a weapon, assault causing bodily injury, and drunken driving. PINA was ordered deported by a federal immigration judge in Houston, Texas, in 2005. He will be detained without bond at the Houston Contract Detention Facility pending removal from the United States.
Any of the foreign nationals arrested during this operation who have active warrants will be referred to the associated local law enforcement agency and ICE will place detainers to ensure they return to ICE custody following disposition of their criminal cases. 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 individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
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 transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.
The officers who conducted this week's special 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 150,000 case leads to ICE enforcement personnel in the field.
This week's enforcement operation 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.