Out of the series of routine targeted enforcement operations across the nation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — which began Monday, February 6 in the Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and San Antonio areas of responsibility — that resulted in more than 680 arrests of convicted criminal aliens and other immigration enforcement priorities, 75 percent were criminal aliens convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.
Meanwhile, media and pro-illegal immigrant advocates have implied that these arrests represent an unprecedented surge in arrests and deportations by the Trump administration, when such roundups by ICE are actually routine, and that there were far more deportations by the Obama administration than under any previous administration, and that emphasis on deporting criminal aliens under Obama didn’t begin until early 2015.
Trump did heighten enforcement pursuant to his Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, which set forth that it is now the policy of the executive branch to:
- Ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States, including the Immigrationa and Nationality Act, against all removable aliens, consistent with Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution and section 3331 of title 5, United States Code;
- Make use of all available systems and resources to ensure the efficient and faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States;
- Ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable federal law do not receive federal funds, except as mandated by law; and
- Ensure that aliens ordered removed from the United States are promptly removed.
The order states that, “Tens of thousands of removable aliens have been released into communities across the country, solely because their home countries refuse to accept their repatriation. Many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our federal, state and local jails. The presence of such individuals in the United States, and the practices of foreign nations that refuse the repatriation of their nationals, are contrary to the national interest.”
“Although federal immigration law provides a framework for federal-state partnerships in enforcing our immigration laws to ensure the removal of aliens who have no right to be in the United States, the federal government has failed to discharge this basic sovereign responsibility. We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies (agencies) to employ all lawful means to enforce the immigrationlaws of the United States," the order states.
ICE’s recent operations has “targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly said Monday.
Kelly noted that, “ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years. The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), however, said in response to the routine ICE operation in Southern California that she’s “outraged to hear of the recent ICE arrests” there. “If the Trump administration is genuinely concerned about threats to American security, it should prioritize violent felons and others who pose real danger,” which is what ICE’s roundup this month was focused on.
Continuing, she said, “My office has been working to get detailed information from ICE, specifically: the rationale for targeting individuals who have no violent or criminal histories; how many people are being detained; how many detainees are children, how many are women and how many are men; the expected processing time for deportation; in which cities these immigration sweeps took place; how children of those individuals removed are affected; where these individuals are being held; and whether the detainees have documented access to attorneys.”
“I am working with my constituents and the immigrant community to ensure they know their rights,” she stated, noting that, “As this process moves forward, I will also ensure my constituents know what the next steps are, where applicable,” and that her “staff and I stand ready to assist constituents, and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect our nation’s immigrants, who have done so much to strengthen and enrich the United States.”
Kelly said, “President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation and directed our department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally,” adding, “I commend the heroic efforts of the dedicated officers of ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and those who provided assistance from ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the US Marshals Service, as well as cooperating state and local law enforcement agencies. These professionals put their lives on the line to protect our communities and country. There is no greater calling than to serve and protect our nation – a mission that the men and women of ICE perform with professionalism and courage every single day.”
ICE said, “These are existing, established fugitive operations teams. ICE does not conduct sweeps, checkpoints or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.”
“Those not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States,” ICE said, noting that, “Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to removal from the country. Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible. These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger. Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.”
ICE said its ERO operations target public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, and individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who re-entered the country after being deported and immigration fugitives ordered deported by federal immigration judges. Some of the individuals arrested during these operations will face criminal prosecutions by the US Attorney’s Office for illegal entry and illegal re-entry after deportation.
Illegal criminal aliens arrested in ERO operations
Of the nearly 190 unlawfully present foreign nationals recently arrested in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina during a targeted enforcement operation by ERO, 127 had prior criminal convictions in addition to their illegal immigration status. Another 29 had been previously removed from the United States and subsequently illegally re-entered. In addition, 17 were immigration fugitives with outstanding final orders of removal issued by a federal immigration judge.
Arrests included a Mexican national arrested in Georgia who is wanted in his home country on charges of homicide and attempted homicide; a Mexican national arrested in Charlotte, NC previously convicted on three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child was also previously removed to Mexico and subsequently illegally re-entered the United States; and a Mexican national arrested in the Atlanta metropolitan area who previously pleaded guilty to felony cocaine distribution charges.
Of 235 other foreign nationals also arrested this month in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri during a targeted enforcement ERO operation, 163 had criminal convictions; 60 had been previously removed from the United States and subsequently illegally re-entered; and another 12 were immigration fugitives with outstanding final orders of removal issued by a federal immigration judge.
Those arrested included: A citizen of Iraq, arrested in the Chicago area with a previous criminal conviction for criminal sexual abuse of a victim unable to consent; a citizen of Mexico, arrested in Indiana with previous criminal convictions for domestic battery, aggravated criminal sexual abuse with victim under 13 and aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a family member; and a citizen of Mexico, arrested in the Chicago area with previous criminal convictions for aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, attempted criminal sexual abuse and solicitation for sex.
Of 161 foreign nationals taken into custody in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, 151 had prior criminal convictions, or 94 percent of those arrested.
Arrests included a previously deported aggravated felon from Honduras with prior convictions for drug trafficking, spousal battery and petty theft who’d been released by local authorities despite an ICE detainer; a Mexican national with a final order of removal with prior convictions for drug trafficking, a weapons violation and spousal battery; and an Australian national with a conviction for lewd and lascivious acts with a child.
Of 41 foreign nationals arrested in the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding areas, “The vast majority — 38 of those arrested — had criminal convictions.”
Arrests included a citizen of El Salvador with a criminal conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and a self-admitted MS-13 gang member; a citizen of Jamaica with a criminal conviction for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11; and, a citizen of Mexico with a criminal conviction for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11.
Of the 51 foreign nationals arrested in San Antonio and the surrounding areas, 23 had criminal convictions.
Arrests included a citizen of Mexico previously removed from the United States who was convicted of aggravated assault; a citizen of El Salvador who pled guilty to the sexual assault of a child; and a citizen of Mexico convicted of domestic violence charges as a repeat offender.
According to DHS, since 2011, ICE ERO has conducted numerous national targeted fugitive operation enforcement operations which include the March 2015 National Cross Check operation that resulted in 2,059 arrests nationwide; the August 2013 National fugitive enforcement operation resulting in 1,660 arrests, including 1,517 convicted criminals; the April 2012 National Cross Check operation that resulted in more than 3,100 arrests; the September 2011 National Cross Check operation resulting in the arrest of more than 2,900 convicted criminal aliens; and the June 2011 National Cross Check operation that resulted in more than 2,400 arrests across all 50 states.
A long problem
On June 12, 2015, Rep. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Jeff Sessions, then chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest and now US Attorney General, said in a letter to then DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, that, according to information provided by then ICE Director Sarah Saldana, "Between FY 2010 and FY 2014, there were 121 unique criminal aliens who had an active case at the time of release and were subsequently charged with homicide-related offenses. Of these 121 individuals who were bonded out, 33 were released on a bond set by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, and 24 were released pursuant to the Supreme Court decision in Zadvydas v. Davis."
The 121 criminal aliens were charged with homicide following their release from ICE custody between FY 2010 and FY 2014.
“Up to 121 homicides in the US could have been avoided between Fiscal Year 2010 and FY 2014 had [the Obama] administration removed from our borders aliens with criminal convictions instead of releasing them back into society where they could commit more crimes,” Grassley and Sessions said in their letter, noting, “This disturbing fact follows ICE’s admission that, of the 36,007 criminal aliens it released from ICE custody in FY 2013, 1,000 [were] re-convicted of additional crimes in the short time since their release.”
Saldana said that under Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 US 678 (2001), “ICE has very limited authority to detain an alien who is subject to a final order of removal for more than 180 days in the absence of a significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future. Where [this is the case] and the alien does not fit within ICE’s narrow authority to continue detention on account of special circumstances, ICE does not have a lawful basis to continue detention beyond 180 days. This can occur when a country refuses to issue a travel document for the individual …. "
Grassley and Sessions pointed out that, “Under section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [INA] (8 USC § 1253(d)), the federal government can promote compliance with ICE removal efforts by denying diplomatic visas or other categories of visas to nationals of recalcitrant countries that deny or delay accepting the return of one or more aliens.”
In testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on April 28, 2015, Saldana said with regard to imposing visa sanctions under section 243(d) of the INA, “I don’t necessarily believe that we ought to suspend immigration, travel from any of these countries because of this particular issue."
“Notably, in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 the majority of releases of serious criminal offenders were made pursuant to federal court decisions or bond decisions by immigration judges. In a leading court case on immigration detention, Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court ruled that ICE generally could not detain an individual ordered removed in immigration detention beyond six months, unless the individual would berepatriated in the reasonably foreseeable future. This detention limit can be triggered when a country simply refuses to accept repatriation of its national, irrespective of the individual’s criminal history.”
In Fiscal Year 2014, ICE booked-out of custody 30,558 individuals with criminal convictions. “However,” ICE acknowledged in its March 2015 announcement of enhanced oversight and release procedures for custody determinations involving detainees with criminal convictions, “some of those convictions likely occurred after ICE made the required custody determination because ICE data systems reflect an individual’s criminal history on file at the time the data are retrieved.
"While this number is down considerably from the 36,007 with criminal convictions released in Fiscal Year 2013, the number — which includes some with felony convictions — still concerns me," Saldana said at the time.
Overall, that year the Obama administration deported 434,015 illegal aliens, more than since 1982.
ICE said, “custody decisions for individuals in removal proceedings are also often reviewed by immigration judges who may set a bond amount that can result in release from ICE custody. Other individuals, typically those associated with less serious offenses, are released as a discretionary matter or after posting a bond amount set by career ICE law enforcement officers. The decision to make a discretionary release, or to set bond, enables ICE to prioritize its resources, to detain and remove other individuals whom ICE deems to pose a greater risk to public safety or national security. ICE is committed to making certain that both mandatory and discretionary releases are executed in a way that promotes public safety and protects communities in accordance with existing law.”