ICE arrests 49 in operation targeting criminals, fugitives

MILWAUKEE - Nearly 50 foreign nationals were arrested in central and western Wisconsin during a week-long enforcement action targeting criminal aliens and immigration fugitives. This operation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Border Patrol in Duluth, Minn.

The ICE operation, which began Feb. 18 and concluded Wednesday, targeted aliens with criminal records, previously deported aliens, and immigration fugitives with outstanding deportation orders. Thirty four of those arrested, or 69 percent, have criminal records in addition to their immigration violations.

Arrests were made in the following Wisconsin counties: Langlade, Dunn, Monroe, Eau Claire, Marathon, Portage, Clark, Trempealeau, Sauk, Wood, Shawano, and Waupaca.

Of the 49 arrested, 20 were arrested based on their prior criminal histories; some of their convictions and arrests include: carrying a concealed weapon, drug possession cocaine, fourth degree sexual assault, felony fraud, multiple OWIs (Operating while Intoxicated), and possession of methamphetamine. Of the 20 criminal aliens arrested, 18 are illegal aliens and two are U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) whose previous criminal convictions make them eligible for deportation.

ICE officers also targeted and arrested 17 fugitives with outstanding deportation orders. Immigration fugitives are aliens who fail to appear for their immigration hearings, or who abscond after being ordered by a federal immigration judge to leave the country. Of the 17 fugitives, 9 have prior criminal convictions in addition to having a final order of deportation; some of their crimes include violating a domestic abuse order, cocaine possession, and carrying a concealed weapon.

In addition, ICE officers arrested seven previously deported aliens. Four are being federally prosecuted in the Western District of Wisconsin for illegally reentering the U.S. after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. They are: Daniel Vela-Armas, 27, arrested Feb. 21 in Altoona; Luis Fernando Marcelino-Reyes, 26, arrested Feb. 20 in Dorchester; Arnulfo Romero-Gonzalez, 27, arrested Feb 20 in Edgar; and Federico Garcia-Hernandez, 28, arrested Feb. 20 in Wittenberg. Garcia-Hernandez had been deported from the U.S. on three prior occasions.

The arrestees, 45 men and 4 women, represent the following countries: Mexico, China, Germany, South Africa, Macedonia, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

"A top priority for the ICE is to enhance public safety by locating and arresting criminal aliens and fugitives, with the ultimate goal of removing them from our country in a safe and humane manner," said Ricardo Wong, field office director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Chicago. "ICE is dedicated to arresting criminal aliens and other violators who blatantly flout our nation's immigration laws."

The arrestees who are not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Fugitives with outstanding deportation orders, and those who returned to the U.S. illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining aliens are pending a hearing before an immigration judge. ICE does not release the names of aliens arrested on administrative immigration charges.

This operation was conducted by ICE's Fugitive Operations Team (FOT) in Milwaukee, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing immigration fugitives and at-large criminal aliens. Last year, ICE's FOTs made more than 35,000 arrests nationwide. More than 31,000 of those arrests, or nearly 89 percent, involved immigration fugitives and aliens with prior criminal convictions.

ICE's Fugitive Operations Program is just one facet of the Department of Homeland Security's broader strategy to heighten the federal government's effectiveness at identifying and removing dangerous criminal aliens from the United States. Other initiatives that figure prominently in this effort are the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities and the agency's partnerships with state and local law enforcement under 287(g).

Largely as a result of these initiatives, ICE removed a total of 136,126 criminal aliens from the United States last year, a record number. The Chicago ICE office, which encompasses a 6-state area that includes Wisconsin, accounted for 9,745 of the total number of criminal aliens deported.