SAN DIEGO - Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams in San Diego and Imperial counties arrested nearly 150 immigration violators from 16 countries during the last month, almost half of whom had criminal records in addition to being in the country illegally.
Of the 147 foreign nationals taken into custody by the Fugitive Operations Teams last month, 67 had criminal records, including prior convictions for child sex offenses, burglary, drugs, domestic violence and firearms violations.
ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams are responsible for identifying and arresting foreign nationals who have ignored final orders of deportation or have returned to the United States illegally after being removed. The teams prioritize cases involving immigration violators who pose a threat to national security and community safety. These include child sexual exploiters, suspected gang members, and those who have convictions for any violent crimes.
Among those arrested by the San Diego area teams during January was a 55-year-old immigration fugitive from Mexico who officers encountered with a loaded revolver in his waistband when they arrested him on an outstanding warrant of removal at his residence in Alpine. Miguel Angel Gonzalez-Pinto was taken into custody and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm manufactured in another state.
The group also included 82 immigration fugitives, aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation issued by immigration judges, and 15 previously deported aliens who illegally reentered the United States after being removed.
"The immigration violators arrested during this operation are a testament to the hard work and perseverance of the ICE officers involved," Robin Baker, field office director for ICE detention and removal operations in San Diego. "Our message is - if you are ordered deported, you should obey the immigration court's order. Otherwise, ICE is going to track you down and send you home."
Since many of these individuals have already been ordered deported, they are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining aliens are in ICE custody and are awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
The Fugitive Operations Program was established in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives. Today, ICE has 75 teams deployed across the country, including 13 here in California. Of those 13 teams, three are assigned to work cases in San Diego and Imperial counties. Given the success of the fugitive operations effort, Congress has authorized ICE to add 29 more Fugitive Operations Teams in fiscal year 2008.
Nationwide, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams have arrested more than 72,000 illegal aliens since the first teams were created. Of those, roughly 19,000, or 27 percent, had criminal convictions.
ICE's databases show the targeted enforcement strategy is paying off. Last year, the nation's fugitive alien population declined for the first time. As of January 2008, ICE's fugitive case backlog had fallen to just over 586,000 fugitive aliens, a decrease of 46,000 since October 2006.
ICE's Fugitive Operations Program is an integral part of the comprehensive multi-year plan launched by the Department of Homeland Security to secure America's borders and reduce illegal migration. That strategy seeks to gain operational control of both the northern and southern borders, while re-engineering the detention and removal system to ensure that illegal aliens are removed from the country quickly and efficiently.
EDITOR'S NOTE: San Diego Field Office Director for ICE Detention and Removal Operations Rob Baker will be available for interviews to talk about this ongoing ICE initative and its impact on crime in our communities. To schedule an interview, contact Lauren Mack at 619 719-7921.