HOUSTON — A Salvadoran gang member with the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, who was wanted in his home country for two murders, was deported Friday by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in Houston.
This removal is the latest result of stepped-up collaborative efforts to locate Salvadoran criminal fugitives in the United States and return them to El Salvador to face justice.
Rene Mauricio Joya-Villata aka Rafael Antonio Joya-Saenz, 26, was arrested without incident Aug. 24 at his residence in League City (Texas). A cooperative lead provided by the Texas Anti-Gang (TAG) program led to his arrest. He was immediately remanded to the custody of ICE in Houston pending his removal from the United States.
On Sept. 5, Salvadoran authorities provided ERO Houston with two outstanding murder warrants on Joya-Villata. The information revealed that he is a high-ranking member of the MS-13 criminal street gang and listed on El Salvador’s top 100 most-wanted fugitives.
This arrest was part of ERO’s Security Alliance for Fugitive Enforcement (SAFE) Initiative. The SAFE Initiative is geared toward the identification of foreign fugitives who are wanted abroad and removable under U.S. immigration law. In just three years, through the SAFE Initiative, ERO has removed more than 600 criminal fugitives to El Salvador. Those removed as part of the SAFE Initiative have been deemed ineligible to remain in the United States and were all wanted by the Policia Nacional Civil (PNC). SAFE aligns with ERO’s public safety priorities and eliminates the need for formal extradition requests.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 1,700 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. In fiscal year 2016, ICE conducted 240,255 removals nationwide. Ninety-two percent of individuals removed from the interior of the United States had previously been convicted of a criminal offense.