The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Wednesday detentions nationwide of nearly 3,000 foreign nationals with criminal convictions in the largest operation of its kind since the agency was created in 2003.
According to a news release issued by the agency in Washington, the total number of arrests was 2,901 people, all with criminal records, during a seven-day operation in all 50 states. In Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, detentions totaled 272, said Marc Moore, field officer at the agencys Miami Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations. Of the 272, 56 were arrested in Miami-Dade County, 41 in Broward, 24 in Palm Beach and one in Monroe.
It is the first time that ICE has carried out a large operation nationwide in which all those arrested have criminal convictions. According to immigration experts, the operation was aimed at convincing immigrant communities and activists that policy has changed and that from now on priority will be given to detaining and deporting only criminals and not undocumented immigrants without criminal records.
Last month, two high-ranking Obama administration officials promised that undocumented immigrants discovered by local police or ICE agents in cities and suburbs would be considered low-priority cases and would not necessarily be deported, although they could be detained.
The officials said three categories of foreign nationals are now subject to deportation: those who have criminal records, undocumented immigrants arrested upon crossing the border, and those who have been previously deported and have returned illegally.
ICE said that more than 1,000 of the 2,901 detained in Wednesdays raids are highly dangerous criminals while 42 others are gang members and 151 have been convicted of sexual crimes.
The results of the operation illustrate ICEs commitment to focus on the arrest and deportation of foreigners with criminal records and those who take advantage of the U.S. immigration system, said ICE Director John Morton.
The operation, dubbed Cross Check, involved more than 1,900 ICE agents, as well as officers from state and city police agencies in all 50 states.
Of the 2,901 arrested, 1,282 had multiple criminal convictions and about 1,600 had been arrested for involuntary homicide, attempted homicide, kidnapping, armed burglary, drug trafficking, abuse of minors, sexual crimes against minors and aggravated assaults.
Besides being detained with criminal records, 681 of those arrested were considered fugitives for having ignored deportation orders. Of those, 386 had been previously deported and had returned to the country on multiple occasions, according to ICEs news release. About 146 individuals were accused of returning after they were deported, a charge that could result in prison sentences of up to 20 years.
None of those arrested in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were identified by name, but ICE did give details of some cases.
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