- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2008

Arrests of illegal immigrants have increased about 50 percent over the past year in the District and Virginia because of greater funding, improved technology and better communication with police departments and correctional facilities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says.

During fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, more than 3,100 illegal immigrants were arrested in the District and Virginia, compared with 2,055 last year, ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal Operations said Thursday. The increase follows a national trend. About 221,000 illegals were arrested nationally during the past fiscal year, compared with 164,000 in fiscal 2007, a 35 percent increase.

“We have spent time increasing enforcement efforts,” said Deborah Achim, the Washington and Virginia field office director for the detention and removal office. “We have partnered up law enforcement efforts in Virginia and D.C. to put together an initiative that meets the need of their communities.”

The greatest concentration of illegal-immigrant arrests occurred in Northern Virginia, where there is a large population of immigrants and arrests are higher overall. ICE did not provide specific numbers. The majority of illegals there entered through the Mexican border. Others entered the country legally, with a student visa for instance, and overstayed the terms of the visa or violated the terms by committing a felony.

The rise in arrests is primarily the result of an intensified effort to identify illegal aliens that have been taken into custody for separate crimes. Previously, labeling detainees as illegal immigrants required extensive checks that many local authorities could not make. ICE has since improved communications with local law enforcement, including the use of teleconferencing.

Two federal-local partnership initiatives, the Criminal Alien Program and the 287g program, have helped increase the Washington and Virginia field office’s ability to locate and identify illegal immigrants arrested for other crimes.

Ms. Achim said she expects the trend to continue into next year as the agency gets more resources and local law enforcement continues to work in concert with ICE.

“I think we are going to find a similar increase next year,” Ms. Achim said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we increase by 1,000, if not 1,500.”

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