WASHINGTON - In the wake of protests of deportation "tearing apart" immigrant families and rejecting unaccompanied children at the U.S. border, removal priorities changed and hundreds of U.S. immigration officers arrested 2,059 convicted criminals for deportation or a date with the U.S. attorney. Last week's 5-day operation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
"This nationwide operation led to the apprehension of more than 2,000 convicted criminal aliens who pose the greatest risk to our public safety," Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas was quoted as saying in an ICE statement released Monday.
The operation, dubbed "Cross Check," began Sunday, March 1, and ended Thursday, March 5, ICE said.
More than 1,000 of those collected have multiple criminal convictions, according to the statement. More than 1,000 of those arrested have felony convictions, including voluntary manslaughter, child pornography, robbery, kidnapping and rape.
Of those arrested, 476 were illegal re-entrants previously removed from the country, ICE said. Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, 163 of those arrested were presented to U.S. Attorneys for prosecution on a variety of charges, including illegal re-entry after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, according to ICE's statement.
The targets of this operation fell within the top two priorities Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson listed in a Nov. 20 memorandum that layed out the change in alien removal policy: Priority 1 targets include threats to national security, criminal street gang members, convicted felons, and aggravated felons. Priority 2 targets have convictions for three or more misdemeanors or convictions for significant misdemeanors, including DUIs.
The foreign nationals detained during the operation who are not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States, ICE said. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country, according to the statement. The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
Five national Cross Check operations since 2011 resulted in the arrest of more than 12,440 convicted criminals and 774 other priority individuals for a total of 13,214 arrests, according to the ICE statement.
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