NEWARK, N.J. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today its eight metropolitan area fugitive operations teams arrested a total of 491 fugitive aliens during a month-long May operation. This was the largest law enforcement action of its kind by ICE's fugitive teams in the metro New Jersey/New York area.
The metropolitan area operation was part of a six-state enforcement effort partnering nearby ICE fugitive operations teams to arrest more than 1,800 criminal aliens, immigration fugitives, and other immigration violators. Arrests were made in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, and Texas. More than 70 percent of the aliens taken into custody nationally are immigration fugitives or have criminal histories.
"ICE is committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration system.Â These enforcement operations ensure that the removal orders handed down by the nation's immigration courts are carried out," said Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE.Â "Because of similar successful operations, we are seeing for the first time, a marked decrease in the fugitive alien population. America will always welcome those who wish to enter our country legally, but for those who flaunt our laws, know that you will be removed."
Of those arrested in the metropolitan area, 347 were fugitive aliens, including 207 people with criminal records. In addition ICE officers arrested 76 other illegal aliens with criminal records and 68 other immigration violators.
Since many of these individuals have already been ordered deported, they are subject to immediate removal from the United States. Those arrested during this coordinated operation who have not already been ordered returned to their home countries have been placed in removal proceedings and are awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge.
ICE worked closely with a number of federal, state and local agencies, including the United States Marshals Eastern District Regional Fugitive Task Force, New York State Police, Suffolk County Sheriff's Office and Suffolk County Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Secret Service.
The Fugitive Operations Program was established in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives. Today, ICE has 75 teams deployed across the country and an additional 29 teams will be added by the end of September. Last year, the fugitive operations teams nearly doubled the number of arrests made in 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 the Fugitive Operations Support Center, which helps to clear outstanding cases.Â Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at approximately 573,000, a decrease of nearly 60,000 since October 2006.
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.