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November 20, 2020Salt Lake City, UT, United StatesEnforcement and Removal

ICE targets Utah aliens who failed to depart US voluntarily in Operation Broken Promise

Criminal alien attempts to violently interfere with father's arrest during nationwide operation

SALT LAKE CITY – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director Tony Pham announced Thursday in McAllen, Texas, an ongoing national enforcement effort called “Operation Broken Promise,” targeting aliens for arrest and removal who promised to voluntarily leave the country, versus face a formal deportation, but never did.

“ICE takes seriously its obligation to enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” said ICE Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony H. Pham. “Those being arrested in this targeted operation have broken their promise to the U.S. government, and we are enforcing the consequences of that dishonesty.”

In St. George, Utah, ICE officers targeted Abraham Deleon-Garcia, 44, a citizen of Mexico, who failed to depart the U.S. by Nov. 7, 2017, under the terms of his agreement with an immigration judge. Deleon-Garcia was arrested near his house Nov. 4 and will remain in ICE custody his pending removal to Mexico.

During the arrest, ICE officers also encountered Deleon’s son Abraham Deleon-Fernandez, 24, who attempted to violently interfere with his father’s arrest. Both father and son illegally entered the U.S. in November 2005 at an unknown location and without inspection. Records checks indicate Deleon-Fernandez is a citizen of Mexico who was living in St. George unlawfully and had previously been convicted of multiple local charges over a seven-year period. He was also arrested Nov. 7 near his home and has entered removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

Since Nov. 2, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers in the Salt Lake City Field Office area of responsibility, which includes Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Montana, have arrested seven individuals who failed to depart after being granted voluntary departure.

“Every day our officers make targeted arrests of criminals and those who are in violation of our immigration laws,” said Jason Knight, acting field office director for ERO Salt Lake City. “I applaud the dedicated women and men of ICE, and our law enforcement partners, who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, often in the face of great personal danger and misguided public ridicule.”

Voluntary departure is typically requested by the alien and granted by an immigration judge, where the alien is granted up to 120 days to arrange their own departure, versus facing a formal deportation and the barriers to readmission that it carries. Voluntary departures benefit U.S. taxpayers by lowering the costs of deportations. About 86% of those arrested also had criminal convictions or pending charges.

When an alien fails to depart the country per this agreement, they become subject to a final removal order which is then carried out as a formal deportation by ICE. In addition to the barrier on readmission, illegal re-entering the U.S. after a formal deportation is a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All those in violation of immigration law may be subject to arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States. ICE takes many factors into account when targeting and arresting individuals, including their criminal and immigration history.

Every day as part of routine operations, ICE targets and arrests aliens who commit crimes, and other individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws. While being mindful of the current pandemic, ICE is continuing to conduct its critical public safety and immigration enforcement mission, while taking efforts to minimize the risks to officers, aliens, and the public related to COVID-19.

Updated: 11/23/2020