ICE operation results in 30 illegal immigrant arrests

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PHOENIX - The following is a press release from the Department of Homeland Security:

More than 30 criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators have been removed from the United States or are facing deportation today resulting from a special enforcement action carried out by an interagency task force led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Team in Phoenix.

During the operation, which concluded Saturday, ICE officers worked with partners from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to locate, identify and arrest 31 illegal aliens. Of those taken into custody, a total of 19 were immigration fugitives, aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation or who returned to the United States illegally after being removed. Six 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 Carlos Solis-Morales, 38, a citizen of El Salvador previously convicted for possession of cocaine for sale.

The majority of those arrested during the operation were from Mexico, but the group also included foreign nationals from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Jordan. 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 Field Office Director Katrina S. Kane, head of ICE's Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Phoenix.

ICE has more than 100 Fugitive Operations Teams deployed nationwide to pursue these types of cases. In fiscal year 2008, those teams accounted for approximately 34,000 arrests, more than double the total just two years ago. As a result of these efforts, the nation's fugitive alien population continues to decline. Estimates now place the number of fugitive alien cases at slightly under 560,000, a decrease of nearly 37,000 in the fiscal year. This is a historic reversal of the previous growth trend in fugitive cases.

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. The 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.