ICE raids net 44 immigration violators in Central Nebraska
By Robert Pore
The Grand Island Independent
Posted Jun 25, 2008 @ 10:40 PM
GRAND ISLAND — Grand Island was one of eight Central Nebraska communities where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations Team agents arrested 44 fugitive immigrants and immigration violators during a five-day initiative that ended Tuesday night.
According to ICE officials, during the five-day operation, which ended June 24, ICE Fugitive Operations Team members arrested immigration violators in Lexington (25 arrests), Grand Island (12 arrests) and Broken Bow (2 arrests). There also was one arrest in each of the following cities: Cozad, Gibbon, Hastings, Kearney and North Platte.
Twenty-eight of those arrested were fugitives, meaning they had defied an immigration judge's final order to leave the country and were targets of the operation.
The remaining 16 were immigration violators encountered by ICE officers during their targeted arrests.
Of the 44 apprehended, 10 have previous criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations.
Officials said arrests were made at homes and businesses in the days leading up to Tuesday.
Those arrested are from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.
"It's important for us to send a strong message to anyone who ignores deportation orders handed down by federal immigration judges," said Scott Baniecke, field office director of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Bloomington, Minn.
According to ICE officials, through May 31 of fiscal year 2008, which began Oct. 1, 2007, 542 illegal immigrants were arrested by Fugitive Teams in the five-state area covered by the Bloomington ICE office, including Nebraska.
Of the total, 452 were fugitive aliens; 90 were immigration violators encountered by the ICE Fugitive Operations Teams during their targeted arrests. Of the 542 apprehended, 103 had criminal convictions in addition to their administrative immigration violations.
In all of fiscal year 2007, Fugitive Operations Teams in the six-state area arrested 914 immigrants.
Last year, ICE officials said the fugitive operations teams nearly doubled the number of 2006 arrests, increasing from 15,000 to more than 30,000. Additionally, in 2007, the nation's fugitive immigrant population declined for the first time in history.
Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at about 572,000, a decrease of nearly 23,000 since October 2007.
Following are some of the criminal immigrants arrested by ICE's Chicago Fugitive Operations Teams during its Central Nebraska operation:
-- Alberto De Jesus Arias-Lopez, 28, a citizen of Guatemala, was arrested June 20 in Cozad. He was ordered deported by a federal immigration judge July 26, 2007, but failed to surrender. Arias-Lopez has convictions in Dawson County for assault and carrying a concealed weapon.
-- Juan Mejia-Perez, 33, a citizen of Guatemala, was arrested June 21 in Lexington. He was ordered deported by a federal immigration judge Jan. 10, 2006, but failed to surrender. Mejia-Perez has a prior conviction in Dawson County for assault.
-- Diego Avellan-Castro, 50, a citizen of Nicaragua, was arrested June 22 in Lexington. He was ordered deported by a federal immigration judge Aug. 8, 1990, but failed to surrender. Avellan-Castro has a felony conviction in Dawson County for cruelty toward a child.
Carlos Gomez-Perez, 39, pled guilty to one felony count of unlawful entry into the United States. He appeared before United States District Judge Charles A. Shaw.
On January 5, 2008, Gomez-Perez was arrested in Dunklin County, Missouri for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He was later identified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as Carlos Gomez-Perez, a Mexican citizen illegally in the United States.
Gomez-Perez was transported to the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in St. Louis, Missouri where an INS Database check revealed he had a prior immigration history in the name of Carlos Gomez-Perez and that he was born in Mexico.
Upon review of his INS file, ICE learned that Gomez-Perez had previously been deported from the United States to Mexico. On July 2, 2001, he was convicted of attempting to enter the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation in violation of 8 U.S.C. §1325(a)(3), in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and was sentenced to probation without supervision for a period of five years.
ICE obtained verification from the United States Immigration Records Division that prior to Gomez-Perez's re-entry on or about January 5, 2008, he had not applied to the Attorney General of the United States or to the Secretary of Homeland Security for permission to re-enter the United States.
Gomez-Perez now faces a maximum punishment of two years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been set for September 24, 2008.
Hanaway praised the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for its work on the case. Assistant United States Attorney Paul W. Hahn handled the prosecution for the government.