LOS ANGELES - More than 300 criminal aliens, immigration fugitives, and immigration violators have been removed from the United States or are facing deportation today following a week-long special enforcement action carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Teams in the Los Angeles area.
During the operation, which concluded yesterday, ICE officers located and arrested 345 immigration violators who were at large in five Southland counties - Los Angeles (194), Orange (43), Riverside/San Bernardino (68), and Ventura (40). Of those taken into custody, a total of 238 were immigration fugitives, aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation or who returned to the United States illegally after being removed. More than 67 of those arrested had criminal histories in addition to being in the country illegally.
Among those taken into custody by ICE during this special enforcement operation was a previously deported Mexican national street gang member whose criminal history includes prior felony convictions for drug sales and assault with a deadly weapon. Jose Perez-Padilla, 46, was arrested February 27 when he arrived at the California Superior Court building on Temple Street to respond to new state charges accusing him of possession of marijuana for sale. Instead, ICE officers detained Perez-Padilla and he now faces prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office for re-entry after deportation, a felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The majority of the immigration violators arrested during the special operation were from Mexico (215), but the group included foreign nationals from a total of 17 countries, among them Indonesia, Colombia, Armenia, Burma, Thailand, and India. Since many of these individuals have already been through immigration proceedings, they are subject to immediate removal from the country.
"We want to send a strong message to those who ignore deportation orders handed down by the nation's immigration judges that ICE is going to use all of the tools and resources at its disposal to find you and send you home," said Brian DeMore, acting field office director for ICE detention and removal operations in Los Angeles.
So far this fiscal year, the five ICE Fugitive Operations Teams in the Los Angeles area have made more than 1,000 arrests. In fiscal year 2007, the Southland teams took a total of 2,667 immigration violators into custody out in the community, a 63 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006. Of those arrested, 576 had criminal histories in addition to being in the country illegally.
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 75 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed across the country. Given the success of the fugitive operations effort, Congress has authorized ICE to add 29 more Fugitive Operations Teams in fiscal year 2008.
Nationwide, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams have arrested more than 72,000 illegal aliens since the first teams were created. There are approximately 585,000 fugitive aliens in ICE's databases; but the agency's targeted enforcement strategy is paying off. Last year, the nation's fugitive alien population declined for the first time in history and continues to do so - in large part due to the work of the Fugitive Operations Teams.
The Fugitive Operations Teams' success is attributed, in part, to ICE's expanded partnerships with local law enforcement agencies 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.
Editor's Note: ICE b-roll and digital photos taken during this latest enforcement action are available. The video will be distributed this morning over TELCO under a prior arrangement with KVEA-TV. KVEA will send out a media advisory on City News Service later this morning with more information on the feed. The still photos can be obtained from the ICE office of public affairs - (949) 360-3096.