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Enforcement and Removal

37 arrested in San Diego area enforcement surge

SAN DIEGO - More than 30 criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators are facing deportation on Friday following a three-day enforcement operation carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams (FOTs) in San Diego and the Imperial Valley.

During the operation, which concluded March 25, ICE officers made a total of 37 arrests in central San Diego, North County, the South Bay, East County and the Imperial Valley.

Of those taken into custody, 21 were immigration fugitives with outstanding orders of deportation, or previously deported aliens who returned to the United States illegally after being removed.

More than 80 percent of the aliens arrested during the enforcement action also had criminal records in addition to being in the country illegally. Their criminal histories included prior arrests and convictions on a variety of violations, including domestic violence, sexual battery, robbery, assault and drug charges.

"This enforcement action underscores ICE's commitment to strategic, effective immigration enforcement that enhances public safety," said Robin Baker, field office director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) in San Diego. "ICE will continue to target, arrest, and remove those who come to this country to pursue a life of crime rather than the American dream."

Among those arrested by the San Diego-area teams was a 59-year-old Mexican female with a 1989 conviction in San Diego for possession of heroin for sale. She is being detained pending a removal hearing before an immigration judge. Of the four individuals arrested in the Imperial Valley, three had prior drug convictions involving the use or possession of amphetamines.

Since many of the individuals arrested during the operation have outstanding orders of deportation or have been previously deported, they are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining aliens will be held by ICE pending a hearing before an immigration judge or the completion of travel arrangements.

The Fugitive Operations Program was established in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives. Today, ICE has 104 FOTs deployed across the country, including three assigned to work cases in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Last year, ICE's FOTs nationwide made 35,094 arrests. More than 31,000 of those arrests, nearly 90 percent, involved immigration fugitives and aliens with prior criminal convictions. Criminal aliens specifically accounted for approximately 45 percent of the overall total, including more than 3,600 individuals with prior convictions for violent crimes, such as murder and assault.

As a result of the FOT's efforts, the nation's fugitive alien population continues to decline. Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at slightly under 525,000, a decrease of more than 71,000 since October 2007.

The officers who conducted this week's special operation received substantial assistance from ICE's Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) located in South Burlington, Vt. The FOSC conducted exhaustive database checks on the targeted cases to help ensure the viability of the leads and accuracy of the criminal histories. The FOSC was established in 2006 to improve the integrity of the data available on at large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives nationwide. Since its inception, the FOSC has forwarded more than 150,000 case leads to ICE enforcement personnel in the field.

ICE's Fugitive Operations Program is just one facet of the Department of Homeland Security's broader strategy to heighten the federal government's effectiveness at identifying and removing dangerous criminal aliens from the United States. Other initiatives that figure prominently in this effort are the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities and the agency's partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies under 287(g).