SAN DIEGO - More than 900 criminal aliens, immigration fugitives, and immigration violators have been removed from the United States or are facing deportation today following a three-week enforcement surge by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams in California.
During the special operation, which concluded late yesterday, ICE officers located and arrested a total of 905 immigration violators throughout the state, including 137 here in the San Diego area. Of those arrested locally, 73 were immigration fugitives, aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation or who returned to the United States illegally after being removed. More than 40 percent of the aliens taken into custody in this area had criminal histories in addition to being in the country illegally.
Among those arrested by the Fugitive Operations Teams locally was a 30-year-old Mexican national who was convicted in 1997 for robbery and sentenced to four years in state prison. Last year, Cesar Hernandez-Gallardo lost his appeal to remain in the United States and failed to depart after being ordered deported by an immigration judge. ICE officers also arrested a 37-year-old Mexican national at his residence in Escondido, whose criminal record includes a prior conviction for burglary. He was ordered deported last June and lost his appeal to remain in the United States last month. The other criminal arrests included violent crimes for assault with a deadly weapon, carjacking, domestic violence and sexual assault.
In addition to the local Fugitive Operations Teams, ICE officers from the agency's teams in Los Angeles and San Francisco were temporarily deployed to the area to assist with this enforcement action.
ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams are tasked with identifying and arresting foreign nationals who have ignored final orders of deportation or have returned to the United States illegally after being removed. The teams prioritize cases involving immigration violators who pose a threat to national security and community safety. These include child sexual exploiters, suspected gang members, and those who have convictions for violent crimes.
"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 Robin Baker, field officer director for ICE detention and removal operations in San Diego. "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."
Since many of these individuals have already been ordered deported, they are subject to immediate removal from the United States. More than half of those arrested during the statewide operation have already been removed to their home countries. The remaining aliens are in ICE custody and are awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
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, including 13 here in California.
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.
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.
EDITOR'S NOTE: DVDs featuring ICE b-roll of this latest operation is available. The footage was shot in Los Angeles and San Diego. In addition, Robin Baker, Field Office Director for ICE Detention and Removal Operations in San Diego, will be available for interviews today from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. To schedule an interview or obtain a copy of the b-roll DVD, call ICE public affairs at (619) 719-7921.