DALLAS (AP) - An operation to remove sex offenders or people from other countries with felony convictions has led to the arrest of 50 immigrants across Texas, federal authorities said Thursday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas said in a news release that the arrests included 40 men convicted of sex crimes including aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual battery of a minor. Others were convicted of offenses ranging from alien smuggling and evading arrest to possessing marijuana and aggravated robbery.
The 50 men arrested were a mix of legal and illegal immigrants, and about half were from North Texas, ICE said. Their names were not immediately released. The statewide operation ran for five days, ending Wednesday.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok told The Associated Press that the men are being held at different jails throughout the state.
Eleven of them have been deported before and illegally re-entered the U.S., Rusnok said. Others were released from prison after serving their sentences but their legal statuses weren't immediately identified, he said, while some might have been detained without local law enforcement contacting immigration authorities.
Rusnok said ICE's Secure Communities program was among changes made to identify immigrants charged with crimes. Secure Communities allows local law enforcement to run someone's fingerprints after an arrest to check immigration status. The program has drawn criticism from some immigrant rights groups.
Legal immigrants can be removed from the country if they are found guilty of certain serious crimes.
Simona Flores, field office director for ICE's enforcement and removal operations division, told the AP that ICE wanted to ensure immigrants convicted of felonies were identified for removal from the country as early as possible.
"Our goal is to identify them before they are released, whether it's from local custody or coming out of federal prison," she said.
Flores said she was reaching out to other federal and local law enforcement on ways to work together.
"We are focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement," she said. "Specifically, we're targeting serious criminal aliens."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
HOUSTON - From I.C.E. - Following a five-day Texas-wide U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation, 50 convicted alien sex offenders and other criminal aliens were arrested by officers with ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
The goal of this operation, dubbed "SOAR" (Sex Offender Alien Removal), was to identify, locate and arrest aliens who have convictions for sex crimes, especially sex crimes against children. This is the first statewide operation that specifically targeted this criminal element. This operation was coordinated with ERO's 16 Fugitive Operations Teams throughout Texas, and Texas DPS.
ERO's Operation SOAR began Saturday and ended Sept. 12.
"ERO is committed to making our communities safe. A priority for ERO is the arrest and removal of convicted criminal aliens who ignore their deportation orders or disregard our nation's laws," said David W. Jennings, field officer director for ERO Houston. "Targeted enforcement operations allow ERO to focus on the most egregious offenders.
"DPS is proud to have worked together with ICE in this successful operation to target and apprehend ruthless criminals who prey on Texans," said Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw. "These types of coordinated efforts between law enforcement agencies at all levels are critical to protecting our communities and keeping criminals off our streets."
Of the 50 men arrested throughout Texas, 47 had felony convictions, and 40 had convictions for sex crimes. One criminal alien residing in Houston had been convicted of murder.
Of the 16 sex offenders arrested in the Houston area of responsibility, prior convictions included; indecency with a child, burglary with intent to commit sexual assault, child pornography, sexual abuse of a child, incest with minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and aggravated sexual assault. Four of those arrested had been previously removed from the country and illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Those arrested, all men, were from the following countries: Cuba (1), El Salvador (3), France (1), Germany (1), Guatemala (1), Mexico (8), and Vietnam (2).
Following are summaries of two men arrested during this operation:
A 64 year-old, Mexican national previously deported, with convictions of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and sexual assault of a child, was arrested on Sept. 10.
A 46 year-old, Mexico national previously convicted of murder, was arrested on Sept. 9. He was issued a Final Administrative Removal Order and remains in ERO custody pending deportation.
These arrests were coordinated with ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives - aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by federal immigration courts. ICE's Fugitive Operations teams give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.
ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.
# ICE #
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.
For more information, visit: www.ICE.gov. To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423