LIBERAL, Kan. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested 28 illegal aliens, criminals and immigration fugitives during a two-day enforcement operation here which ended Sunday. Assisting ICE during this operation were officers from the Liberal Police Department.
"Fugitive aliens" are illegal aliens who fail to appear for their immigration hearings, or they abscond after having been ordered to leave the country by a federal immigration judge.
During the two-day operation, which ended March 30, ICE Fugitive Operations Team members arrested 28 illegal aliens, including four with criminal convictions. There were 23 men and five women. Twenty were from Guatemala, six from Mexico, and two from El Salvador.
A 38-year-old Mexican man who was arrested during this operation had a history of assault on a law enforcement officer. Another 28-year-old Mexican woman is under investigation for identity theft, which is a major problem facing all U.S. citizens nationwide.
ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams are specially trained and solely dedicated to target fugitive aliens. Fugitive Operations Teams give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and community safety, including members of transnational street gangs, child sex offenders and aliens with prior convictions for violent crimes. Team officers and agents use intelligence-based information, and in this case, leads from the Liberal, Kansas, Police Department to locate and arrest fugitive aliens.
"Within the last year, ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams have helped reduce the number of fugitive aliens in the United States for the first time in history," said Kenneth Carlson, assistant field office director of ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Kansas City. "Before 2007, the number of fugitive aliens had increased year-by-year. Our Fugitive Operations Teams help maintain the integrity of the immigration system." Carlson's two-state area of responsibility includes the states of Missouri and Kansas.
All those arrested have been placed in deportation proceedings. The 18 aliens arrested during this operation that already have final orders of deportation will be removed to their countries of origin soon after travel documents are secured for them; the others will have the opportunity to appear before a federal immigration judge who will review and determine their claims to remain in the United States.
During fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30, five Fugitive Operation Teams in the six-state area covered by the Chicago ICE office, arrested 1,043 illegal aliens. Of the total, 860 were fugitive aliens; 135 of these had criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations. In fiscal year 2006, Fugitive Operations Teams in this same area arrested 410 aliens.
ICE established its Fugitive Operations Program in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives and ensure that deportation orders handed down by immigration judges are enforced. Today, ICE has 75 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed across the country. Due to the success of the fugitive operations effort, Congress authorized ICE to add 29 more Fugitive Operations Teams in fiscal year 2008.
Nationwide, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams have arrested more than 72,000 illegal aliens since the first teams were created. There are about 580,000 fugitive aliens in ICE's databases, but the agency's targeted enforcement strategy is paying off. 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.
The Fugitive Operations Teams' success are attributed, in part, to ICE's expanded partnerships with local law enforcement agencies nationwide, and the newly created Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) in Vermont, which aids in gathering and analyzing information on fugitive cases across the country. This center was opened last year and has since disseminated more than 150,000 case leads to ICE agents.
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.