PHOENIX - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are crediting innovative programs and improved organizational efficiency with spurring a sharp increase in the number of illegal aliens removed from Arizona this year.
For the first nine months of this fiscal year (October 2007 to June 2008) the Phoenix Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) removed 38,799 illegal aliens from Arizona. Over the same period in the previous fiscal year, there were 33,243 removals, an increase of 5,556. DRO officials are projecting that the total number of illegal aliens removed by ICE from Arizona will top more than 50,000 for the first time since the agency was created in 2003.
"As ICE continues to strengthen its partnerships and focus its resources more effectively, we are seeing positive results in our mission to identify and remove illegal aliens from Arizona," said Katrina S. Kane, DRO Phoenix field office director. "Two programs in particular - Law Enforcement Agency Response (LEAR) and the Criminal Alien Program at the Maricopa County Jail - have played an important role in this increase.
The LEAR program began in September 2006 to provide a more comprehensive response to Arizona law enforcement agencies seeking assistance from ICE during encounters with suspected illegal aliens. From October 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, the LEAR unit received 897 calls for assistance and arrested 5,249 illegal aliens. For the same period this fiscal year, the unit received 1,283 calls for assistance and arrested 6,235 illegal aliens.
Following a 287(g) agreement made last year with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to train and designate county jail detention officers with federal immigration authority, ICE and MCSO set up a joint Criminal Alien Program (CAP) at Maricopa County's inmate intake facility to screen the immigration status of everyone who is arrested in the county and processed at their facility.
ICE began CAP in June 2007 to identify criminal foreign-born aliens in federal, state and local jails and prisons and target them for removal. By combining the national CAP program with MCSO's local 287(g) program, both agencies are better able to effectively use their resources in ensuring that criminal aliens are not released back onto the street to further victimize Arizona communities. More than 14,295 foreign-born criminals have been identified and targeted for removal from the United States. A similar program run in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Corrections has resulted in more than 4,200 illegal aliens identified for removal from the state prison system.
"One of ICE's top enforcement priorities is to improve public safety in Arizona communities," said Kane. "By focusing our resources on programs that identify criminal aliens for removal from the United States, we are succeeding in our mission to keep foreign-born criminals off of the streets in Arizona."