EL PASO — Deportation officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) on Tuesday removed a former Colombian national army battalion commander accused of human rights violations.
Retired Lt. Col. Oscar Gomez Cifuentes, 53, was implicated in five killings in Colombia that allegedly occurred while he was the commander of Infantry Battalion 43 Efrain Rojas Acevedo. These allegations relate to a disputed report stating that five persons were killed by the battalion during a confrontation at a Colombia ranch in November 2007. This incident was among other incidents reported by military units as “positive” killings of guerrillas in combat; but later these killings were alleged to have been executions committed outside of combat. Such killings are referred to as “false positives.”
Between 2008 and 2014, Gomez was admitted into the United States three times as a temporary non-immigrant visitor through New York and Miami. He departed as required the first two times, but he overstayed his visa in 2014. On April 4, 2017, a federal immigration judge ordered him removed back to Colombia; Gomez appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
On June 10, 2017, ERO Miami officers assigned to ICE’s Fugitive Operations Team arrested Gomez, and he was taken into custody pending his appeal to the BIA regarding his removal order. However, on Aug. 24, 2017, he withdrew his appeal.
This case was litigated by ICE’s Office of the Chief Counsel in Miami with the support of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC).
The HRVWCC was established in 2009 to further ICE’s efforts to identify, track and prosecute human rights abusers. It leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 785 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 108 such individuals from the United States.
Currently, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 70,400 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped 213 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the United States.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE’s confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973.