WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 18 foreign nationals sought for their roles in known or suspected human rights violations or human smuggling and trafficking during a nationwide operation which concluded on Dec. 17.
The ICE National Fugitive Operations Program, in coordination with the ICE Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, and the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, worked with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, San Francisco and Salt Lake City field offices to arrest these fugitives.
Since 2014, ICE successfully effectuated five No Safe Haven operations targeting known and suspected human rights violators. This year’s Operation No Safe Haven Plus lent support to additionally advance the agency's ongoing commitment to locate fugitives both affiliated with human smuggling or trafficking and subject to final orders of removal.
The foreign nationals arrested during this operation all have outstanding removal orders and are subject to repatriation to their countries of origin. Eleven are known or suspected human rights violators and seven are affiliated with human smuggling or trafficking. Nine individuals are also criminal aliens in the United States with convictions for crimes including, but not limited to, human smuggling, human trafficking, negligent manslaughter and weapons offenses. The operation included three additional collateral arrests of those with final orders of removal.
“These arrests are a critical piece of our ongoing mission to ensure that those who violate human rights abroad or engage in human smuggling and trafficking cannot abuse the immigration system to find safe haven here in the United States,” said Tony H. Pham, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director. “We are committed to investigating and bringing these criminals to justice. We want those who have fled their countries in search of safety in the U.S. to know that they won’t come face to face with their persecutors here nor will we tolerate the smuggling, trafficking, or servitude of others.”
Those arrested across the country included:
- Seven foreign nationals from Central and South America implicated in numerous human rights violations against individuals, to include arbitrary detentions, referrals of prisoners to intelligence units involved in persecutory abuses and direct interrogations involving the mistreatment of civilians.
- Three foreign nationals from Africa implicated in ethnic cleansing, abductions and sexual exploitation of women and children.
- Seven foreign nationals who were arrested or convicted for smuggling or trafficking violations, including state charges involving the solicitation to commit smuggling, smuggling of human beings for profit or commercial purpose and trafficking a person for sexual servitude.
ICE is committed to identifying, investigating, prosecuting and removing known or suspected human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States. ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the U.S., including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, severe violations of religious freedom, female genital mutilation/cutting and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. These individuals may use fraudulent identities or falsified documents to enter the country in an attempt to blend into communities in the United States.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also email HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov or complete ICE’s online tip form.
The HRVWCC was established in 2009 to further ICE’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 460 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 1,064 known or suspected human rights violators from the U.S. Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 172 such individuals from the U.S.
Currently, ICE has more than 155 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,675 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 77,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped over 333 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.