- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) yesterday said seven new fugitive-operations teams are now functioning in Atlanta; Houston; Los Angeles; Newark, N.J.; Phoenix; Raleigh, N.C.; and Washington.

Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads the organization charged with enforcing immigration and customs laws, said the new teams bring to 45 the number of fugitive-hunting operations nationwide.

“The United States is a land of opportunity, but it is also a nation of laws,” said Mrs. Myers. “As such, an immigration judge’s order of removal is not optional and must be followed. The addition of these new fugitive teams increases ICE’s ability to aggressively pursue immigration violators as part of our nationwide interior-enforcement strategy.”

ICE spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said the fugitive-operations teams, although assigned to specific regional offices, have nationwide jurisdiction and can be deployed to conduct operations anywhere fugitive alien populations are located in the United States.

She said the teams use intelligence information and leads to hunt down aliens who have been ordered to leave the country by an immigration judge, but have failed to comply — making them fugitive aliens.

Of the more than 52,000 illegal aliens caught by the teams since the first was created in 2003, Ms. Koroma said, 22,669 had convictions for crimes that included homicide, sexual assault against children, robbery, violent assault, narcotics trafficking and other aggravated felonies.

She said that another group of seven teams will be added by the end of September to form a network of 52 teams covering the nation. Currently, fugitive teams are collectively apprehending more than 1,000 illegal aliens a week.

Many regional ICE offices where there are significant numbers of fugitive aliens have more than one team assigned. Teams currently operate in 22 U.S. cities, including Baltimore and the District.

“These fugitive operations teams are a crucial part of ICE’s interior-immigration enforcement,” Ms. Koroma said. “A critical element of this interior-enforcement strategy is to identify and remove criminal aliens, fugitives, and other immigration violators from the United States.”

The interior-enforcement strategy is part of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), a multiyear Homeland Security plan to secure America’s borders and reduce illegal entry.

The SBI’s border-security efforts are focused on gaining control of the country’s borders through additional personnel and technology, while re-engineering the detention and removal system to ensure that illegal aliens are removed from the United States quickly.

The strategy is designed to complement the department’s border security goals by expanding existing efforts to target immigration violators inside the country and employers of illegal aliens, as well as the criminal networks that support them, Ms. Koroma said.

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