PHOENIX - More than 35 criminal aliens, immigration fugitives, and immigration violators have been removed from the United States or are facing deportation today, following a special enforcement action carried out over the past week by an interagency task force led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Team in Phoenix.
During the operation, ICE officers worked with partners from the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to locate, identify and arrest 39 illegal aliens. Of those taken into custody, 21 were immigration fugitives, aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation or who returned to the United States illegally after being removed. Seven of those arrested had criminal histories in addition to being in the country illegally.
Among those taken into custody by ICE was Juan Romualdo Martinez-Baldivia, 40, a citizen of Mexico with multiple convictions including driving under the influence, shoplifting and assault. Martinez-Baldivia had been a fugitive since 2006, when he was ordered to leave the United States by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The majority of the immigration violators arrested during the special operation were from Mexico, but the group also included foreign nationals from Honduras and El Salvador. Since many of these individuals have already been through immigration proceedings, they are subject to immediate removal from the country.
"ICE is committed to restoring integrity to this country's immigration system and that means ensuring that the removal orders handed down by the nation's immigration courts are carried out," said Katrina S. Kane, field office director for ICE detention and removal operations in Phoenix. "As a country, we welcome law-abiding immigrants, but foreign nationals who violate our laws and commit crimes in our communities should be on notice that ICE is going to use all of the tools at its disposal to find you and send you home."
So far this fiscal year, which began in October, the ICE Fugitive Operations Team in Phoenix has made 371 arrests. Of those arrested, 26 had criminal histories in addition to being in the country illegally.
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.
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. Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at slightly under 573,000, a decrease of more than 59,000 since October 2006. Given the success of the fugitive operations effort, Congress has authorized ICE to add 29 more Fugitive Operations Teams in fiscal year 2008.
The Fugitive Operations Teams' success is attributed, in part, to ICE's expanded partnerships with local law enforcement agencies 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.