SAN DIEGO - A total of 81 foreign nationals are facing federal and state criminal charges or deportation following a multi-agency enforcement operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to crack down on violent street gangs in the greater San Diego area.
The latest arrests are the result of one of the largest gang enforcement operations carried out as part of ICE's Operation Community Shield in San Diego. Beginning last Monday, more than twenty ICE agents, assisted by San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Escondido Police Department, fanned out across communities in the North County and several others communities within the San Diego city limits searching for documented foreign national gang members and their associates.
During last week's operation, ICE agents arrested 38 gang members or gang associates and 43 criminal aliens. Of those, 6 were charged in federal court for felony re-entry after deportation. The five men and one woman, all Mexican nationals, were previously deported criminals with prior convictions for drug offenses and violent crimes, including multiple apprehensions for illegally re-entering the United States after deportation. They are now facing federal charges for re-entry after deportation, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In addition to the federal prosecutions, nine others arrested during the operation by ICE agents are facing criminal prosecution in state court on various criminal charges, including drug offenses, burglary, robbery and violation of a gang injunction.
Most of the remaining targets were taken into custody on administrative immigration violations. They will be held in ICE custody and scheduled for a deportation hearing before an immigration judge.
Last summer ICE agents in San Diego netted 61 foreign national gang arrests in a similar multi-agency enforcement crackdown over a two-week period.
Operation Community Shield is an ongoing nationwide initiative in which ICE is partnering with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to address the public safety threat posed by transnational gangs. The strategy uses criminal prosecutions and administrative immigration arrests to disrupt gang activity and dismantle the organizations.
Since Operation Community Shield was launched in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested nearly 9,600 gang members and associates. Locally, ICE agents in San Diego have made more than 400 arrests, dismantled several cross-border drug smuggling organizations with ties to violent street gangs and seized dangerous weapons and narcotics from the organizations.
ICE will continue to use its broad immigration authorities, both criminal and administrative, against gang members, as well as its customs authorities to target gang-related narcotics smuggling and money laundering activities. Operation Community Shield also involves strong cooperation with existing federal, state, and local anti-gang efforts.
Editor's Note: ICE Special Agent in Charge Miguel Unzueta will be available today from 3p to 5p at 185 West F Street / 2nd floor in the Bristol Square Building to discuss this local gang enforcement action. B-roll taken by ICE during the anti-gang enforcement operation is available. To schedule an interview or obtain b-roll, contact the ICE office of public affairs at (619) 557-6485.