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October 24, 2008Bloomington, MN, United StatesEnforcement and Removal

ICE Fugitive Operations Teams arrests 19 absconders, illegal aliens in Minnesota

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams based here arrested 19 fugitive aliens and immigration violators in southern Minnesota during a three-day initiative that ended Thursday.

"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 three-day operation, which ended Oct. 23, ICE Fugitive Operations Team members arrested illegal aliens in Madelia (10 arrests), St. James (five arrests), Windom (two arrests), and one arrest each in Butterfield and Lewisville. Four of those arrested have been deported previously.

Of the 19 aliens apprehended, five have previous criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations. Their crimes include: burglary, providing false information to police, drunken driving, passing bad checks, and driving without insurance. A sixth man has charges pending against him for first- and second-degree assault.

"ICE is committed to protecting the integrity of our legal immigration system by ensuring that deportation orders handed down by federal immigration judges are carried out," said Scott Baniecke, field officer director of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Bloomington. "The United States welcomes law-abiding immigrants. However, ICE will use all our resources to find foreign nationals who violate our laws and commit crimes in our communities, and send them home." Baniecke oversees a five-state area that includes: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Those arrested are from the following countries: Mexico (11), Honduras (6), Guatemala (1) and El Salvador (1).

During the federal government's fiscal year 2008, which ended Sept. 30, Fugitive Operations Teams arrested 1,082 illegal aliens in the five-state area covered by the Bloomington ICE office. Of this total, 764 were fugitive aliens; 318 were immigration violators encountered by the ICE Fugitive Operations Teams during their targeted arrests. Of the 1,082 apprehended, 209 had criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations. During the previous year, these Teams arrested 914 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 more than 100 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed nationwide to pursue these absconders. In fiscal year 2008, those teams accounted for more than 34,000 arrests, which is more than double the total from just two years ago. As a result of these efforts, the nation's fugitive alien population continues to decline. Estimates now place the number of fugitive alien cases at slightly under 560,000, a decrease of nearly 37,000 within the last year. This is a historic reversal of the previous growth trend in fugitive cases.

The Fugitive Operations Teams successes 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.