CHICAGO - In the largest operation of its kind ever carried out throughout the Midwest, 370 convicted criminal aliens and immigration fugitives have been arrested following a three-day targeted enforcement operation by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
During the operation, which ended Thursday evening, ICE officers located and arrested 347 aliens with prior criminal convictions including nine gang members and 16 convicted sex offenders. More than 56 % of the criminal aliens taken into custody had prior convictions for serious or violent crimes, such as armed robbery, drug trafficking, child abuse, sexual crimes against minors, aggravated assault, theft and forgery In addition, 51 of the individuals ICE officers took into custody were immigration fugitives, aliens with outstanding orders of deportation who had failed to leave the country.
Arrests were made in the following 10 Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
This Midwest operation is the latest in a series of similar Cross Check operations around the country. The first Cross Check occurred in December 2009, and ICE has since conducted Cross Check operations in 37 states, including in California, Texas, Virginia and Arizona, as well as regional operations in the Southeast, Northeast and now the Midwest. All together, ICE has arrested 2,064 convicted criminals, fugitives, and aliens who have illegally re-entered the United States after removal around the country.
At a news conference in Chicago on Friday, ICE Director John Morton announced the results of the enforcement action, which involved more than 350 ICE agents and officers, as well as personnel from the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), along with local law enforcement partners throughout the 10 states.
"The record number of arrests made during this operation is a direct result of excellent teamwork among federal agencies who share a commitment to protect public safety," said ICE Director John Morton. "ICE is focused on arresting convicted criminals who prey upon our communities, and tracking down fugitives who scoff at our nation's immigration laws. The results of this operation demonstrate ICE's commitment to those principles."
Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, at least 21 of those arrested during the enforcement surge have been accepted for federal prosecution for re-entering the country illegally after they had previously been deported. A conviction for felony re-entry carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
The arrestees include:
- A 23-year-old man from Laos convicted of criminal sexual conduct involving the rape of a child.
- A 25-year-old from Mexico and member of the Latin Kings gang who was convicted of theft, drug trafficking, and criminal mischief.
- A 24-year-old Ukrainian convicted of theft, receiving stolen property, drug possession, assault, forgery, and disorderly conduct.
- A 24-year-old Liberian convicted of dealing cocaine, sexual abuse of a minor, and theft.
The foreign nationals detained during the operation who are not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining aliens are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
Of those arrested, 339 were male and 31 were female. They represent 56 different nations, including countries in Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
This week's special enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives - aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by the nation's immigration courts. ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams (FOTs) give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.
The officers who conducted this week's operation received substantial assistance from ICE's Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) located in Williston, 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 550,000 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).
Largely as a result of these initiatives, ICE has so far this fiscal year removed a total of 142,526 criminal aliens from the United States, which is a record number.