Monday, September 29, 2008

Statewide immigration raids result in 1,157 arrests (Los Angeles Times)

Statewide immigration raids result in 1,157 arrests
Federal agents target those who ignored deportation orders or returned to the U.S. illegally. More than 400 are arrested in the Los Angeles area.

By Francisco Vara-Orta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
3:58 PM PDT, September 29, 2008

Federal immigration agents arrested more than 1,150 people in the largest collective sweep by specialized enforcement teams in California, authorities said today.

The sweep targeted those who ignored deportation orders or returned to the United States illegally after being deported, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

The raids, which ended Saturday, produced 436 arrests in the San Francisco area, 420 in the Los Angeles area and 301 in the San Diego area.

Of the 1,157 illegal immigrants arrested statewide, 595 had outstanding deportation orders and 346 had prior criminal convictions, Kice said. Those arrested come from 34 countries.

The squads responsible for the arrests, known as fugitive operations teams, were developed in 2003 to focus on apprehending foreign nationals who have ignored final orders of deportation or have returned to the U.S. illegally after being deported, Kice said.

The cases at the top of their list involve those wanted or convicted in violent or drug-related crimes, agency officials said.

"Individuals who defy immigration court orders to leave the country need to understand there are consequences for willfully disregarding the law," said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who oversees the federal immigration agency.

Kice released details of two arrests in the L.A. area.

Jose Avila, a Mexican national whose criminal history includes prior convictions for lewd acts involving a child and battery, was arrested Sept. 15 in Santa Fe Springs.

The 41-year-old was turned over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on an outstanding warrant for making a terrorist threat, Kice said. After he is released by local authorities, Avila will be returned to federal custody for prosecution on felony charges of reentering the country after his deportation last year.

In North Hollywood, Ramon Cedano, 47, a previously deported Mexican national with a prior conviction for selling heroin, was arrested Sept. 11 at his home.

Cedano was turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department on an outstanding drug warrant. Once he's turned back over to the immigration department, he will be prosecuted for reentering the country after deportation, a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In recent years, the immigration agency has heightened enforcement at factories, offices and homes. In the Los Angeles region and surrounding areas, there are seven active fugitive operations teams that have conducted raids: four based in Los Angeles County, two in the Inland Empire and one in Orange County. Immigration officials have said they are going to add a eighth team, which would be based in Ventura County.

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