OCTOBER 10, 2007
Recently increased cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies is responsible for the newfound success of a crucial program that targets violent gang members living in the U.S. illegally.
Although Operation Community Shield was launched in early 2005 to rid the nation of violent illegal immigrants it wasnâ??t very effective in meeting its goal until local police departmentâ??s agreed to participate by identifying the criminals in their jurisdiction.
The evidence is in the numbers with an increase of 134% in arrests in the last fiscal year, including 1,313 of the nationâ??s most vicious gang members in the last three months alone. The three-month sweep spanned across 23 cities from New York to San Diego and hundreds of renowned gang members have been charged with violent crimes such as assault, drug possession, kidnapping and human smuggling.
Some had been previously deported from the U.S. and reentered the country illegally and many are members of a violent and rapidly growing criminal organization (Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13), which is notorious for murder, kidnapping, extortion and human smuggling. The gang was created in the 1980s by Central American immigrants in Los Angeles and has spread throughout the nation.
The latest three-month sweep provides alarming statistics. Federal agents in the New York and Long Island areas led the pack with a total of 205 arrests, followed by Miami Florida with 160, San Diego California with 128 and Dallas Texas with 121.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses its broad law enforcement powers to arrest, detain, charge and deport the immigrant criminals. The powers include the authority to also remove criminals who are legal permanent residents of the United States.
The problem has been the reluctance among numerous local police departments to inquire about a suspectâ??s immigration status. Even when an illegal immigrant is a repeat offender with a lengthy criminal record, many local law enforcement agencies fail to verify immigration status or contact federal authorities to begin deportation proceedings.
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