OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday that its local teams of officers arrested 63 fugitive aliens and other immigration violators here and in surrounding communities as part of a five-day operation that ended Wednesday.
"Fugitive aliens" are illegal aliens who fail to appear for their immigration hearings, or who abscond after having been ordered to leave the country by a federal immigration judge.
Two local fugitive operations teams and other area officers began the Operation Sept. 20, and made the arrests in the following seven Oklahoma communities: Oklahoma City, Norman, Harrah, Mustang, Edmond, Chickasha, Jones and other surrounding areas. Those arrested are from the following eight countries: El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Ghana, Guatemala and Honduras. The fugitive operations teams and other officers that coordinated their efforts in this latest west Oklahoma operation are based in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla., and Lubbock, Texas.
"Our Fugitive Operations Teams are specially trained and solely dedicated to target fugitive aliens to help maintain the integrity of the immigration system," said Nuria T. Prendes, field office director of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Dallas, Texas. "If you ignore a judge's order of removal, ICE will find you, arrest you, and you will be returned to your home country."
Forty five of those arrested had final orders of deportation; 18 were immigration violators encountered during the course of the targeted operation. Nine of those arrested had criminal convictions, which included: voluntary manslaughter, possessing and distributing controlled substances, grand larceny, extortion, assault, burglary, larceny and drunken driving. Two of those arrested are gang members. Two other gang members had nine outstanding state warrants; they were released to the Oklahoma City Police department to first resolve their pending charges. The Oklahoma City Police Department collaborated with arresting the violent criminal targets.
During the first 11 months of fiscal year 2008, which began Oct. 1, the local ICE Fugitive Operations Teams in the area covered by the Dallas ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations have made 1,493 arrests. Of this total, 1,203 were fugitive aliens who had failed to comply with their outstanding deportation orders; 290 - including 32 with criminal convictions - were encountered by the ICE Fugitive Operations Teams during their targeted arrests. This office oversees the State of Oklahoma, and 128 counties in north Texas.
ICE established its National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP) 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 95 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed across the country. Another Oklahoma Fugitive Operations Team is scheduled to open in Tulsa in October.
So far this year, ICE's NFOP has made more than 30,000 arrests nationwide, which included more than 23,000 fugitives. Additionally, in 2007 and for the first time in history, the nation's fugitive alien population declined and continues to do so, in large part because of the work of the NFOP. Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at about 570,000, a decrease of nearly 25,000 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 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.