Call for paid service +44 (0)344-991-9222

US engaged in illegal immigrant crackdown

Support migrant centric journalism today and donate

Over the past several weeks while debate has raged over immigration reform, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been engaged in a "massive operation" to identify, locate and arrest illegal immigrants.

From Boston to Mexico, more than 2,100 illegal immigrants have been arrested and detailed pending deportation proceedings in the past three weeks, and U.S. officials indicate that the current effort will be sustained throughout the summer, at least.

Spokespersons for immigration enforcement (or ICE), a section within the DHS, point out that the effort is specifically targeting child molesters, violent gang members and past deportees who re-entered the country. However, the general effort is sweeping in many other illegal immigrants who have otherwise caused no serious trouble, other than illegal entry. Names are being determined by cross-referencing county lists of convicted sex offenders and known gang members with a federal immigration database.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are coordinating the roundup with a network of 35 fugitive apprehension teams around the country. Dubbed "Operation Return to Sender," the effort kicked off somewhat quietly on May 26 as the Whitehouse and Congress heated up debate on various proposals to reform U.S. immigration policy and procedure.

The operation has caught more than 140 immigrants with convictions for sexual offenses against children; 367 known gang members, including street soldiers in the deadly Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13; and about 640 people who had already been deported once, immigration officials said. The numbers include more than 720 arrests in California alone.

More than 800 people arrested already have been deported. 116 were apprehended in New Jersey, another 55 workers at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, and 114 in New York State

ICE's 2006 budget increased the number of fugitive task forces to 52, and the Bush administration is pushing for 70 by 2007. The teams face a mounting challenge.

Official numbers claim that there are more than 500,000 "fugitive aliens" who have been deported by judges, who then either slipped back into the country or never left.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a new get-tough policy on 20 April, which was marked by more than 1,100 illegal immigrants in 40 cities being caught and detained from one company alone.

Authorities are also describing this as part of a government campaign to root out illegal workers at "critical infrastructure" sites nationwide that could be targeted by terrorists -- such as airports, shipyards, nuclear plants and military bases. ICE Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers said "Not only are the identities of these individuals in question, but these aliens are also vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists and other criminals, given their illegal status in this country."