GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams arrested 25 fugitive aliens and immigration violators here and in surrounding communities during a two-day initiative ending Thursday.
"Fugitive aliens" are illegal aliens who fail to appear for their immigration hearings, or they abscond after having been ordered to leave the country by a federal immigration judge.
During the two-day operation, which ended March 27, ICE Fugitive Operations Team members arrested 12 illegal aliens in Grand Island, three in York, two in Sutton, two in Gibbon, one in Hastings, and one in Shelton. Nineteen of those arrested were fugitives; six were immigration violators encountered by ICE officers during their targeted arrests. Of the 25 apprehended, five have criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations.
"It's important for us to send a strong message to anyone who ignores deportation orders handed down by federal immigration judges," said Scott Baniecke, field office director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Bloomington, Minn. "ICE uses all the tools and resources at our disposal to locate criminal and illegal aliens and send them home." Baniecke oversees a five-state area that includes Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota.
Most of those arrested - 15 - are from Guatemala; eight are from Mexico; one is from El Salvador; and one is from Iran. Eighteen of those arrested are men; seven are women.
Following are three of the criminal aliens arrested by ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams during this latest operation:
- Salvador Rocha-Portillo, 43, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested March 27 in Shelton. He was ordered deported by a federal immigration judge in April 1992 in Washington State. Rocha-Portillo was convicted in federal court in 1991 for smuggling illegal aliens, and aiding and abetting illegal aliens. He was also convicted of third-degree assault in Hall County, Neb.
- Hugo Galaviz, 19, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested in Grand Island March 26. He was convicted in January 2006 in Hall County for possessing burglary tools, and is a known associate of the East Side Locos street gang. A federal immigration judge ordered him removed in December 2007, but he failed to surrender.
- Ruben Perez-Mora, 35, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested March 27 in Gibbon. He has multiple convictions for drunken driving in both Nebraska and Georgia. A federal immigration judge ordered him removed in November 1999 in Buffalo, N.Y., but he failed to surrender.
During fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30, 914 illegal aliens were arrested by Fugitive Teams in the five-state area covered by the Bloomington ICE office. Of the total, 800 were fugitive aliens; 114 were immigration violators encountered by the ICE Fugitive Operations Team during their targeted arrests. Of the 914 apprehended, 159 had criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations. In fiscal year 2006, Fugitive Operations Teams in the five-state area arrested 660 aliens.
ICE established its Fugitive Operations Program in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives and ensure that deportation orders handed down by immigration judges are enforced. Today, ICE has 75 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed across the country. Due to the success of the fugitive operations effort, Congress 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. There are about 585,000 fugitive aliens in ICE's databases, but the agency's targeted enforcement strategy is paying off. Last year, 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.
The Fugitive Operations Teams' success are attributed, in part, to ICE's expanded partnerships with local law enforcement agencies nationwide, and the newly created Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) in Vermont, which aids in gathering and analyzing information on fugitive cases across the country. This center was opened last year and has since disseminated more than 150,000 case leads to ICE agents.
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.