WASHINGTON - Thirty-two foreign nationals with criminal records and four fugitives were arrested in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Washington, D.C., following a four-day enforcement surge by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
During the operation, which concluded Thursday, ICE officers located and arrested 32 criminal aliens with prior convictions for a variety of crimes, including robbery and narcotics possession with intent to distribute and four immigration fugitives.
This special operation involved more than 20 officers from ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as several other state and local agencies. In the first quarter of FY 2010, local ICE officers arrested 298 aliens of which 60 percent had criminal histories and 94 percent were immigration fugitives.
"A top priority for the Washington Field Office is to locate and arrest criminal aliens and ultimately remove them from our country in a safe and humane manner," said Enrique M. Lucero, field office director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Washington, D.C. "This operation is yet another example of the critical roles that multi-agency cooperation and targeted immigration enforcement play in protecting our communities."
The Northern Virginia area accounted for the largest number of arrests made during the operation where a total of 20 criminal aliens were arrested. Twelve criminal aliens were arrested in the Harrisonburg area. Of the 36 arrested, 30 were men and six were women and represent more than 16 different nations, including countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Caribbean, and Africa.
Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, three of those arrested during the enforcement surge will face further federal prosecution for reentering the country illegally after a formal deportation.
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.
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.
Last year, ICE's 104 FOTs nationwide made 35,094 arrests. More than 31,000 of those arrests, or nearly 89 percent, involved immigration fugitives and aliens with prior criminal convictions. Criminal aliens specifically accounted for approximately 45 percent of the overall total, including more than 3,600 individuals with prior convictions for violent crimes, such as murder and assault.
The officers who conducted this week's special operation received substantial assistance from ICE's Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) located in South Burlington, Vermont. 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.
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.