DENVER - In the largest operation throughout Colorado this year, 78 convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested last week during a three-day targeted enforcement operation by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
During the operation, which ended Thursday evening, ICE officers located and arrested 64 aliens with prior criminal convictions, including five gang members. Some of the criminal aliens taken into custody had prior convictions for serious or violent crimes, such as homicide, selling illegal drugs, sexual crimes against children, resisting arrest and assault, vehicle theft, and drunken-driving convictions. In addition, 12 of the individuals ICE officers took into custody were immigration fugitives, aliens with outstanding orders of deportation who had failed to leave the country.
Nine of those arrested will be presented to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution for illegally re-entering the United States after they had been previously deported, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Arrests were made in the following Colorado cities: Aurora, Avon, Akron, Denver, Fruita, Sheridan, Glenwood Springs, Longmont, Greeley, Grand Junction, Clifton, Montrose, Northglenn, New Castle, Cortez, Lakewood, Sterling, Kiowa, Westminster, Fredrick, Edwards, Silverthorne, Platteville, Yuma, Thornton, Centennial, and Wamsutter, Wyo.
The following local law enforcement agencies also participated in this operation: U.S. Marshals Service, Denver Sheriff's Department Gang Task Force, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Colorado State Probation and Parole, Colorado State Patrol, Fruita Police Department, Grand Junction Police Department, Mesa County Sheriff's Office, Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Summit County Sheriff's Office, Garfield County Sheriff's Office , Carbondale Police Department, New Castle Police Department, Montrose Police Department, Montrose County Sheriff's Office, Delta Police Department, and Delta County Sheriff's Office.
"The fugitive and criminal aliens we targeted and arrested in this operation help make our Colorado communities safer," said John Longshore, field office director for ICE ERO in Denver. "Arresting fugitives and criminal aliens remains an ICE priority."
Three criminal aliens arrested during this operation include:
- A native and citizen of Mexico was convicted of 1st Degree Reckless Manslaughter in the District Court, Denver County, Colo. The incident stemmed from a gang-related fight in which he shot the victim in the back; the victim died from the wound. The original charge was 1st Degree Murder and was reduced to 1st Degree Reckless Manslaughter. He was a juvenile at the time, but was convicted as an adult and sentenced to six years in prison. The sentence was suspended as a commitment to five years in the youth offender system.
- A known gang member of the "Family Mob-Orange County," and a native and citizen of Mexico, was convicted for Making a Terrorist Threat & Obstruction or Resisting Executive Officers in the Performance of their Duties in Orange County, Calif. He was deported in June 1999, March 2000, and again in August 2001.
- A national of Mexico, was arrested at his residence in Aurora, Colo. He was convicted in California for selling heroin and was sentenced to two years incarceration. He was deported in November 1999. In March 2007, he was convicted in the U.S. District Court, District of Colorado, for illegally re-entering the U.S. and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison. He was again deported in May 2009. He is currently detained in ICE custody without bond pending deportation, and will be presented to the U.S. Attorney for prosecution.
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, 73 were men and five were women; 63 are from Mexico, three are from El Salvador and three are from Honduras. One person was arrested from each of the following nine nations: Bulgaria, Colombia, Indonesia, Liberia, Mauritania, Poland, Senegal, Venezuela and United Kingdom.
Last 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 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, as of Sept. 7, ICE has removed a total of 176,736 criminal aliens from the United States, which is a record number.