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Enforcement and Removal
01/07/2011

Felony immigration cases reach record levels in California's Central Valley

Indictments increase 7 percent compared to last year

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Authorities announced Friday that the number felony prosecutions in the Eastern District of California in fiscal year 2010 for illegal re-entry after deportation hit their highest level in at least 12 years.

In the most recent fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, there were 432 felony re-entry cases filed in the Eastern District involving 432 defendants, a seven percent increase compared to fiscal year 2009. The fiscal year 2009 figure of 404 defendants represented a 48 percent increase over fiscal year 2008, and a nearly 130 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2007. The cases all consisted of prosecutions for illegal re-entry to the United States following a prior deportation.

The previously deported aliens targeted for criminal prosecution were those who had been re-arrested in the Eastern District of California after serving prison time for aggravated felonies committed in the United States. Most defendants convicted of felony re-entry receive sentences of between two to six years.

The Eastern District of California covers 34 counties in the Central Valley and the Sierras, from the Los Angeles County line to the Oregon border. Authorities say the local increase in felony immigration cases stems from greater investigative and prosecutorial resources dedicated to such offenses. Both this year and last year, the U.S. Department of Justice authorized additional resources to bring immigration prosecutions in the Sacramento and Fresno offices.

"The criminal aliens targeted for prosecution by this office are those who pose a genuine public safety threat to our communities," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. "They are persons who previously had been convicted of serious crimes and then deported, only to return to California and engage in further criminal activity. No matter where one stands in the larger debate over federal immigration laws, there should be little debate over the prosecution of serious criminals who illegally return to California after prior deportations. I commend the diligent work of the agents and prosecutors who have worked so hard to bring these cases over the past year."

The fiscal year 2010 felony re-entry convictions included an alien with numerous prior state and federal convictions, including robbery, burglary, kidnapping, child molestation and soliciting lewd acts, who had been previously removed from the country five times. Another defendant, with three prior removals, had past convictions for drug trafficking, vehicle theft, lewd and lascivious acts with a child under age 14, and alien smuggling. A third case involved a defendant with eight prior removals who had seven convictions for battery, along with convictions for burglary, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, and illegal re-entry to the United States.

"These prosecutions send an important message to criminal aliens who believe they can treat deportation as little more than a revolving door," said Timothy Aitken, the field office director who oversees ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Sacramento. "If you commit crimes in this country, get removed, and come back illegally, we will seek to prosecute you and put you in federal prison. We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. ICE is bringing all of its tools to bear against those who show no regard for those laws."

The felony re-entry statistics do not include other immigration prosecutions, such as cases involving the production or distribution of counterfeit immigration documents and aliens in possession of firearms. In fiscal year 2010, authorities noted there was also a sharp increase in misdemeanors prosecutions for illegal entry. Many of those prosecutions involved aliens who were apprehended in the vicinity of rural marijuana gardens in the Eastern District of California during law enforcement operations.