Officers and agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had a busy year in 2017. New leadership set up the agency to increase immigration enforcement efforts.
“Our mission is accomplished by the people of ICE working together and by adhering to our core values of integrity, courage and excellence,” ICE officials wrote. “The following Year in Review is a snapshot of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), and Management and Administration’s (M&A) daily work. As we reflect on 2017 and prepare for the challenges of 2018, ICE will continue to strive for excellence in all its efforts.”
Below are the top ten stories recalling the efforts of the agency throughout 2017:
ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers started the New Year with an aggressive effort to begin the process of removing criminal aliens from American cities. During the first 100 days, ERO officers arrested 41,318 known or suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. This represented a nearly 40 percent increase over the same period in 2016. Of those arrested, 25,786 had criminal histories.
In February, ERO officers arrested a previously deported Mexican national placed on the “Most Wanted Fugitives” list. Immigration officers deported Javier Atlixqueno-Vaquero, 37, in 2004 following a history of criminal convictions that included sexually assaulting a minor, drug dealing, and failing to appear before a U.S. court.
“A convicted felon and one of our most wanted fugitives,” Tsoukaris continued. “Mr. Atlixqueno-Vaquero is a threat no more and is in custody awaiting removal from the United States. I commend the hard work and dedication of our officers.”
In September, ERO Fugitive Operations officers arrested nearly 500 aliens from 42 different countries during Operation Safe City. The operation directly targeted people in violation of immigration laws with a priority on those with criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, gang members (including MS-13), immigration fugitives, and previous deportees.
Of the 45o arrested, 317 had criminal convictions; 68 were listed as fugitives; 104 had records of previous deportations; and 18 were gang members or affiliates.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” acting ICE Director Tom Homan said in a written statement. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
ERO officers arrested a self-admitted MS-13 gang member after sanctuary New York released him. Jail officials freed Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez despite the presence of a 2015 order of deportation from an immigration judge and an immigration detainer issued by ICE. New York jail officials had custody of the gang member following a conviction on a disorderly conduct charge.
“This man is, by his own admission, a member of a violent street gang and was released back into the community,” New York ERO Field Office Director Thomas R. Decker said in a written statement in February. Honoring a detainer request is not about politics, it is about keeping the citizens of New York safe,” Thomas R. Decker, field office director for ERO New York.
ICE officials issued a request for assistance in August 2016. Agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) worked with INTERPOL in an attempt to identify a woman suspected of being linked to an unsolved case of child abuse and exploitation.
ICE added the woman to the Operation Predator App. This mobile app allows users to receive alerts about wanted predators, officials stated. The app is intended to help protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minor, internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
In May 2017, ICE ERO officers wrapped up a six-week operation targeting gang members and other criminal aliens. Officers arrested 1,378 people during the targeted operation including 1,098 with existing federal or state criminal charges. Twenty-one of those were wanted for murder-related charges and seven had charges of rape or sexual assault.
“Gang-related violence and criminal activity present an ongoing challenge for law enforcement everywhere, said ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Thomas Homan. “Our efforts to dismantle gangs are much more effective in areas where partnership with local law enforcement is strongest.”
The arrested gang members included, “137 affiliated with the Bloods, 118 with the Sureños, 104 with MS-13, and 104 with the Crips. The remaining 283 claimed no gang affiliation but were arrested on either criminal or administrative charges,” ICE officials stated. During the operation, officers seized 238 firearms, 546.96 ounces of methamphetamine, 790.15 ounces of cocaine, 113.42 ounces of heroin, 1.59 ounces of fentanyl, 8,019 ounces of marijuana, and $491,763 in cash.
During a tactical training exercise, a student fell to the ground in an apparent heart attack. Office of Training and Tactical Programs firearms instructor Jason Gueringer jumped into action and provided life-saving first aid, ICE officials stated.
“It was an image I won’t be able to get out of my head,” Gueringer stated. “He turned blue and started having some convulsions, so we thought he was maybe having a seizure. Immediately after that he just stopped breathing.”
He later learned his student suffered what is referred to as a “widow-maker” heart attack. Officials said less than one percent of victims of this type of heart attack survive.
“It was pretty surreal for me. If you asked me in totality what happened, I really wouldn’t be able to tell you,” the firearms instructor explained. “I was solely focused on what I was doing. There were several of us who helped out. It was a team effort.”
Gueringer received his CPR certification just two months before this incident took place.
As the new fiscal year began on October 1, ICE HSI agents carried out Operation Raging Bull which led to the arrest of 214 MS-13 gang members in the U.S. and 53 more in El Salvador.
HSI agents executed Operation Raging Bull in support of the Department of Justice’s recent prioritization of enforcement actions against violent transnational gangs.
“MS-13 has long been a priority for ICE. However we are now combating the gang with renewed focus and an unprecedented level of cooperation among DHS’s components and our domestic and international partners,” ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Thomas Homan said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “ICE has the ability to pursue complex criminal cases using our statutory authorities and to prevent crime by using our administrative arrest authorities to remove gang members from the country. We will not rest until every member, associate, and leader of MS-13 has been held accountable for their crimes, and those in this country illegally have been removed.”
The arrests followed an 18-month investigation in El Salvador and the U.S.
ICE ERO officers deported a man from the Dominican Republic who was wanted in his home country on murder charges. ERO officers turned Martires Molvan-Figeureo, 54, over to Dominican Republic law enforcement officials after removing him from the U.S.
“We will not allow violent criminals to seek refuge from justice within our borders. Molvan’s removal reflects ERO’s commitment to public safety in the United States and also abroad,” New York ERO Field Office Director Thomas R. Decker said in a written statement in February. “Not only will we continue to seek out dangerous criminals who pose a threat to our communities, but they will be removed. It is our resolve to ensure that our cities are made safer while these lawbreakers face consequences in their home countries.”
During Fiscal Year 2017, which ended on September 30, HSI agents arrested nearly 800 members of the MS-13 transnational criminal gang. The arrests came as part of an emphasis from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security that resulted in the arrest of nearly 5,000 gang members.
The agents arrested 4,818 gang members, including 796 MS-13 members. The gang members were arrested for “a myriad of criminal activity, including murder, extortion, narcotics and weapons trafficking, human smuggling/trafficking and prostitution and other crimes with a nexus to the border,” officials stated.
“The presence of violent transnational street gangs, as well as the amount and violent nature of the criminal activity they support, presents on ongoing challenge to law enforcement at every level,” ICE officials concluded in the year-end report. “Whether on the local, state or federal level, effective collaboration with other law enforcement partners is an essential part of the criminal investigations HSI conduct.”