Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Illegals arrested across the country: Article | Video | Photos

BALTIMORE — Federal agents taking a break from an unrelated assignment yesterday arrested 24 illegal aliens at a Fells Point 7-Eleven after the men attempted to solicit “underground” employment from the agents.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were stopped in the convenience store parking lot when the group of Hispanic men approached the agents’ unmarked vehicles, ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi said.

Officials said “several” agents were approached, but they declined to say how many.

The agents, members of an ICE fugitive operations team conducting a mission targeting illegal aliens, determined that all 24 men assembled at the store were illegal aliens and brought them to an ICE holding facility in Baltimore, Mr. Raimondi said.

“Fugitive aliens and other immigration-status violators [flout] our laws and threaten the integrity of our immigration system,” said John Alderman, acting director of ICE’s Baltimore field office. “Although ICE conducts targeted enforcement actions, we will not ignore immigration violations we encounter during the course of doing business.”

Of those arrested, 10 were Honduran, eight were Mexican, five were Salvadoran and one was Peruvian, ICE officials said.

Six of the men have criminal records in the United States, eight of the men have failed to comply with final removal orders from an immigration judge and one man had been caught at the border on four occasions, ICE officials said.

The nonprofit immigrant-advocacy group CASA of Maryland called the arrests an “illegal raid” that was beyond ICE’s authority.

“Asking a bunch of people about their immigration status is well beyond the confines of a specific warrant,” CASA spokeswoman Kim Propeack said.

The group organized a press conference yesterday afternoon in front of the 7-Eleven at South Broadway and East Lombard streets, where the arrests occurred.

CASA officials invited other immigrant advocates and faith leaders to protest the arrests, which they say unfairly targeted Hispanics, and call for reforms to the country’s immigration system. “We’re making it more difficult for people to be good,” said the Rev. Robert Wojtek, pastor of neighboring St. Michael and St. Patrick Roman Catholic parishes. “What sin against God have these people done?”

A spokeswoman for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon told the Associated Press that the arrests highlighted the need for a designated day-laborer center in the city.

The Fells Point neighborhood historically has been home to immigrants who came to the United States legally, including a large number from Poland.

The fugitive operations program is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative, which aims to tighten border controls and remove illegal aliens from the country. ICE removed more than 190,000 illegal aliens last year, including more than 90,000 with criminal records.

The arrests came the same day that ICE officials announced they had arrested more than 750 illegal aliens in the Los Angeles area in the past week.

Those aliens were from 14 countries, including Mexico, Ukraine, India, Japan, Poland and Trinidad.

The raids were part of ICE’s Operation Return to Sender, which has netted 13,000 arrests nationwide since June.

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