NASHVILLE, Tenn. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 24 immigration fugitives and immigration violators during a five-day law enforcement operation that culminated Tuesday, July 1. The operation was carried out by deportation officers assigned to the ICE New Orleans and Memphis Fugitive Operations Teams.
"ICE is committed to improving the integrity of our nation's immigration system, and one way to do that is to ensure removal orders are carried out," said Philip Miller, deputy field office director for ICE's Office of Detention and Removal Operations in New Orleans. "The United States welcomes law abiding immigrants, but foreign nationals who violate our laws and who commit crimes against those in our communities will not be allowed to stay. Rest assured that ICE will use all available resources to remove from the country, those not legally allowed to be here."
Of those arrested, 22 were immigration fugitives. ICE officers also arrested one individual who illegally re-entered the U.S. after having been previously removed and one non-fugitive criminal alien who allegedly is a member of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).
An immigration fugitive is someone who has ignored a final order of deportation after having had due process. They are subject to immediate removal from the United States. The individual who illegally re-entered the U.S. after being deported will be swiftly removed. The other immigration violator arrested during this operation has not already been ordered removed. He has been charged with being in violation of immigration violations and has been placed into removal proceedings.
During the month of May alone, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams arrested more than 3,400 fugitives and immigration violators across the country. Of that number, 138 immigration fugitives were arrested by fugitive operations teams within the New Orleans Field Office's area of responsibility which includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
The New Orleans Fugitive Operations Team was put in place just one year ago in Aug. 2007. The Memphis team is one of two teams assigned to the New Orleans Field Office and has contributed to the arrests of more than 236 fugitives thus far this fiscal year. In the coming months, the New Orleans Field Office is scheduled to staff permanent Fugitive Operations Teams in Nashville, Birmingham, and Little Rock.
The Fugitive Operations Program was established in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives. Today, ICE has 90 teams deployed across the country and an additional 20 teams will be added by the end of September. Last year, fugitive operations teams nearly doubled the number of arrests from 2006 from 15,000 to more than 30,000. Additionally, in 2007, the nation's fugitive alien population declined for the first time in history and continues to do so in large part due to the work of the fugitive operations teams and our Fugitive Operations Support Center, which helps to clear outstanding cases. Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at approximately 572,000, a decrease of nearly 23,000 since October 2007.
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 immigration. 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.