MIAMI - Forty-nine immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested in Orange and Palm Beach counties following a three-day law enforcement operation carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Florida fugitive operations teams. This enforcement effort focused on fugitives residing in Orlando and Palm Beach areas.
During the operation, which concluded Friday, ICE fugitive operations teams arrested 44 fugitives and five immigration violators. Five of those arrested had criminal histories that spanned from lewd acts on child under 16, driving under the influence, drug possession, weapons charges and prostitution Thirty-one individuals arrested remain in ICE custody and 18 were released on ICE supervision for humanitarian reasons concerning child care issues.
"The removal of illegal aliens, especially those with a criminal history, is one of ICE's top priorities," said Michael Rozos, field office director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Florida. "We will continue using all our resources to ensure that removal orders are carried out and locate these immigration violators who potentially pose a threat to public safety."
An immigration fugitive is someone who has ignored a final order of deportation. Those fugitives have already been ordered deported and are subject to immediate removal from the United States. The individuals who have illegally re-entered the U.S. after deportation are also subject to immediate removal from the U.S. The other immigration violators arrested during this operation who have not already been ordered removed, have been charged with immigration violations and placed into removal proceedings. They await hearings before an immigration judge.
Among those arrested in the Orlando and Palm Beach area included:
- Jose Erasmo De La Rosa, 35, of the Dominican Republic, and residing in Orlando, FL, who entered the United States in New York City on March 5, 1989 as an immigrant. Due to his criminal conviction, he was placed in immigration proceedings and ordered removed by an immigration judge on March 16, 2007. De La Rosa filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals which was dismissed on June 10, 2008. He has a conviction for lewd act upon a child 16 years or younger. He will remain in ICE custody pending his removal from the U.S.
- Devon James, 48, a Jamaican national and resident of Loxahatchee, who entered the United States in Miami on November 3, 1980 as an immigrant. He voluntarily reported to the West Palm Beach ICE office after refusing to speak with officers when encountered at his place of employment. Due to his criminal convictions, James was placed in immigration proceedings. On May 20, 1998, the immigration judge ordered James removed in absentia when he failed to appear for his immigration hearing. James has convictions for possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of controlled paraphernalia and use of a handgun in commission of a felony. James will remain in ICE custody pending his removal from the U.S.
The Fugitive Operations Program (FOP) was established in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives and ensure that deportation orders handed down by immigration judges are enforced. So far this year ICE fugitive operations teams have made more than 29,000 arrests. Last year, the fugitive operations teams nearly doubled the number of arrests made in 2006 (15,000) to more than 30,000 in 2007. Additionally, in 2007, 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 and our Fugitive Operations Support Center, which helps to clear outstanding cases. Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at approximately 570,000, a decrease of nearly 25,000 since October 2007.
Much of the credit for those results can be attributed to the rapid expansion of the program. Today, ICE has 95 fugitive operations teams deployed across the country and nine additional teams will be added by the end of September. Locally, the ICE Florida field office has seven operational teams and two additional teams will be deployed within the next month.
Those arrested represent countries around the globe including Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil, Dominican Republic, China, Trinidad and Tobago.
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. The plan also involves strong interior enforcement efforts, including enhanced worksite enforcement and intensified efforts to track down and remove illegal aliens inside the United States.