370 arrested in immigration crackdown

August 27, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Thirty five of those arrests were in the Chicago area. They were part of coordinated law enforcement effort led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And they are part of the Obama administration's massive effort to get criminals who are here illegally off the streets -- an effort that has critics worried about others who may get swept up in these raids.

They're called collateral damage and ICE officials say not a one was picked up in the sweep over the last three days that netted 370 criminal and immigration fugitives in ten states. Three hundred and forty seven had convictions for serious crimes such as rape, child abuse and robbery; 162 had multiple convictions. Twenty three had no criminal record but were wanted as immigration fugitives.

"Of the 370 individuals we have taken in to custody in the Midwest, every one was either a convicted criminal, an immigration fugitive or someone who had already been deported and has come back to the United States illegally," said John Morton, director, ICE.

ICE was supported in its sweep by officers from the U.S. Diplomatic Service and the U.S. Marshal Service. The Midwest operation is part of ICE's Operation Cross-Check which has run similar efforts around the country. So far, ICE says over 2,000 criminals have been removed from the U.S. in 35 states, primarily by cross-referencing fingerprint data garnered in arrests with immigration files.

"We don't target individuals. We target crimes. We pursue fugitives for the crimes they commit not for the gender or race that they represent," said Darryl McPherson, U.S. Marshal, Northern District of Illinois.

But immigration advocates say these sweeps don't tell the full story of ICE's efforts to rid the U.S. of foreign criminal elements.

In a statement the national immigrant justice center's said, "our concern is that some of the people arrested in this operation may actually have a way to remain lawfully in the United States, but they are now at risk of being deported before they have an opportunity to find a lawyer or see a judge."

"I am happy and delighted every time ICE agents go out there and make our streets safer by eliminating criminals, drug, rapists, people who steal, people who harm us. But let's remember. They deport just as many people and use just as many billions of dollars deporting your neighbors," said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D) Chicago & Southwest Suburbs.

Gutierrez is a long time advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.

"If what you do is you segregate the millions that are here working, undocumented in this country, legalize them, you don't have to worry about them anymore, now you can take all those billions of dollars of resources, half of which you are spending to attack the criminal element," said Gutierrez.

The local arrests were in Chicago, West Chicago and Elgin. ICE did not say how much the entire operation cost. But in the last fiscal year, the agency removed 389,000 people from the United States, a record. One hundred thirty six thousand were convicted criminals.

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