Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California Sweep Targets Illegal Immigrants with Criminal Records

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California Sweep Targets Illegal Immigrants with Criminal Records

Article excerpt

Federal agents arrested almost 300 people in California Thursday, as part of a new focus on targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records. Most of those arrested had been convicted of serious or violent crimes, officials said.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appears to have a

new enforcement priority: undocumented foreign nationals with

criminal records. In what is reportedly the largest such operation

ever, the ICE arrested 286 immigrants with criminal records in a

three-day sweep in California that ended Thursday night.

More sweeps seem likely in border states, as part of an increased

focus by the Department of Homeland Security on targeting

undocumented immigrants with serious criminal records.

"This is not so much a shift in tactics but an increased emphasis

on the elimination of criminal aliens, making it clear on both sides

of the border that that is our highest priority," said John Morton,

Homeland Security assistant secretary who oversees ICE, in a phone

interview.

"This is going to be our central focus for years to come," Mr.

Morton said, adding that the sweep was aimed at "sending the clear

signal that if you come here, you need to play by the rules or we

will find you and capture you and send you home."

Eighty percent of those arrested in California had prior convictions

for serious or violent crimes such as armed robbery, assault with a

deadly weapon, and rape, said the ICE. Those arrested included people

from Mexico, Denmark, Taiwan and Tonga.

The special operation involved more than 400 agents and officers

from ICE, the US Marshals Service, and state and local agencies.

Morton said that there would be more sweeps in other states to show

that the US is serious about identifying and removing criminal

offenders. "In a world of limited resources, we have to make good

judgments about the priorities we bring to bear...." he said earlier

Thursday while talking about enforcement of immigration laws. …

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