More than 240 arrested in Southland ICE operation targeting criminal aliens and public safety threats
LOS ANGELES – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the Los Angeles area arrested more than 240 criminals and individuals who pose a threat to public safety last week, a record number for a four-day ICE operation in the Southland.
All 244 of the foreign nationals taken into custody by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers during the enforcement action, which concluded Thursday, had prior criminal convictions. The majority (56 percent) had criminal records that included felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and drug violations. The remaining arrestees had past convictions for significant or multiple misdemeanors.
While the vast majority of those taken into custody are originally from Mexico (191), a total of 21 countries are represented, including Peru, Thailand, France and Ghana. Of the six Southland counties where arrests occurred, Los Angeles County accounted for the largest number of apprehensions (99), followed by Orange County (55); San Bernardino County (43); Riverside County (24); Santa Barbara County (20); and San Luis Obispo County (3).
Four of those detained during last week’s enforcement action are previously removed criminal individuals who are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for felony re-entry after removal from the U.S. They include Vincente Onofre-Ramirez, a Mexican national convicted in 2002 in New York of sexual abuse with force. Onofre-Ramirez was removed from the U.S. after serving his sentence. The 35-year-old was taken into custody without incident Aug. 23 at his home in Santa Ana and made his initial appearance in federal court the following day.
Other criminal aliens detained during the enforcement action include a 46-year-old Guatemalan national arrested in Upland Aug. 26 who was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing two children. ERO officers also arrested a 50-year-old Salvadoran national in Sunland Aug. 23 who was convicted last year in Los Angeles County of two criminal counts involving child sex abuse.
The foreign nationals detained during the enforcement action who are not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of removal, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
All of the targets in this operation met the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) two top immigration enforcement priorities as established in DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s 2014 memorandum. Priority 1 targets include threats to national security, criminal street gang members, convicted felons, and aggravated felons. Priority 2 targets include convictions for three or more misdemeanors or convictions for significant misdemeanors, including DUIs.
Secretary Johnson has directed ICE to prioritize the use of enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets to support the Department’s civil immigration enforcement priorities. ICE continues to work with local law enforcement partners to uphold public safety, while taking dangerous criminals out of our communities.
Last week’s enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program, which locates, arrests and removes at-large criminals. The officers who conducted this operation received substantial assistance from ICE’s National Criminal Alien Targeting Center and from ICE’s Pacific Enforcement Response Center (PERC), located in Laguna Niguel. Established in January of this year, the PERC operates 24/7 to take appropriate enforcement action against criminal aliens and public safety threats who are booked into local law enforcement custody. The PERC shares leads with ERO field offices nationwide, issuing immigration detainers on high-priority and high-risk criminal aliens.