RICHMOND, Va. - Seventy-five foreign nationals with criminal records and 12 fugitives were arrested in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Washington, D.C., following two enforcement surges this summer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
During the two operations in June and July, the last of which concluded Wednesday, ICE officers located and arrested 75 criminal aliens with prior convictions for a variety of crimes, including robbery and narcotics possession with intent to distribute and 12 immigration fugitives. These special operations involved more than 70 officers from ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service.
"A top priority for ICE is to locate and arrest convicted criminal aliens and ultimately remove them from our country in a safe and humane manner," said Washington Field Office Director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations Henry Lucero. "Those who come to the United States to prey upon communities in Virginia and Washington, D.C. will be prosecuted for their crimes and ultimately returned to their home countries. The results of these operations demonstrate ICE's commitment to that principle."
The Northern Virginia area accounted for the largest number of arrests made during the operation, where a total of 57 convicted criminal aliens and fugitives were arrested. Twenty-eight criminal aliens and fugitives were arrested in southern and central Virginia.
Of the 87 arrested, 74 were men and 13 were women. They represent more than 19 different nations, including countries in Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa.
Some of those arrested during this operation include:
- Jorge Garcia-Alberto, 46, a Honduran national, who illegally re-entered the United States after being previously removed. He was arrested in Herndon, Va., on a criminal warrant for re-entry. His criminal history includes felony convictions for sale of marijuana, as well as misdemeanor burglary, theft and DUI. Garcia-Alberto is in ICE custody and may face criminal prosecution for re-entry to the United States.
- Oscar Montoya, 30, an El Salvadoran national, an immigration fugitive and a member of MS-13. He was arrested in Centreville, Va., for immigration violations. His criminal history includes felony drug convictions. He is in ICE custody pending removal from the United States based on an outstanding order from the immigration judge.
- Robert Cummings, 49, of Guyana, a legal permanent resident of the United States, was arrested in Richmond for immigration violations. His criminal history includes felony convictions for possession of a weapon and intent to distribute cocaine. He has been placed in removal proceedings.
Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, six of those arrested during the enforcement surges will face further federal prosecution for reentering the country illegally after a formal deportation.
The foreign nationals detained during these operations 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.
These special enforcement actions were 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 550,000 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.