US – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested more than 2,900 convicted criminal aliens over the past week as part of “Operation Cross Check,” a law enforcement sweep that spread across all 50 states and four U.S. territories — the largest-ever ICE criminal alien operation.
The arrests came a month after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, bowing to pressure from immigration activists, announced that ICE would focus its interior enforcement efforts in the future on serious criminals and delay deportation cases for most non-criminal immigrants who don’t pose a threat to public safety or national security.
ICE described the arrests as part of the Obama administration’s “ongoing commitment to prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators.”
The seven-day operation involved more than 1,900 ICE officers and agents from all of the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations’ 24 field offices, as well as coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement partners throughout the United States.
“The results of this targeted enforcement operation underscore ICE’s ongoing commitment and focus on the arrest and removal of convicted criminal aliens and those that game our nation’s immigration system,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Because of the tireless efforts and teamwork of ICE officers and agents in tracking down at large criminal aliens and fugitives, there are 2,901 fewer criminal aliens in our neighborhoods across the country.”
From left: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton; Gary Mead, executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations; ICE Deputy Director Kumar Kibble and James Dinkins, executive associate director of Homeland Security Investigations, take part in a news conference to announce results of ICE-led enforcement targeting at-large criminal aliens on Sept. 28, 2011, in Washington. (Associated Press)From left: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton; Gary Mead, executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations; ICE Deputy Director Kumar Kibble and James Dinkins, executive associate director of Homeland Security Investigations, take part in a news conference to announce results of ICE-led enforcement targeting at-large criminal aliens on Sept. 28, 2011, in Washington. (Associated Press)
In August, Ms. Napolitano said the agency would proceed on deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who met certain criteria, such as attending school, having family in the military or having primary responsible for other family members’ care. She told Congress said has the discretion under the law to focus on “priorities” and her department and the Justice Department would review all ongoing cases to see who met the new criteria.
“This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety,” she said at the time. “Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high-priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.”
All of the 2,901 persons taken into custody over the past week have prior criminal convictions including at least 1,282 who have multiple criminal charges. More than 1,600 of those arrested had felony convictions including manslaughter, attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug trafficking, child abuse, sexual crimes against minors, and aggravated assault.
Of the total 2,901 criminal aliens arrested, ICE officials said 42 were members of known street gangs and 151 were convicted sex offenders.
Immigration legislation has been stalled in Congress for years as Democrats and Republicans have sparred over what to include. Republicans generally favor stricter enforcement and a temporary program that would allow workers in the country for some time, but eventually return to their home countries. Democrats want the legislation to include legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country, and want a future guest-worker program to include a path to citizenship so those workers can stay permanently.