Immigration Officials Arrest More Than 3,100

The New York Times on April 2, 2012 released the following:

“By JULIA PRESTON

In a six-day nationwide sweep, federal immigration agents arrested 3,168 immigrants who had been convicted of crimes or had repeatedly violated immigration laws, officials said Monday.

The operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement involved arrests in all 50 states and was coordinated with the local and state police, in the largest arrest campaign by the agency, officials said. Among those detained were 1,477 immigrants who had served prison sentences for felonies, and 1,063 immigrants with more than one criminal conviction, the agency reported.

Those arrested also included 559 immigrants who had returned to the United States illegally after being deported.

John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the operation was an example of the agency’s shift in focus, to deporting immigrants in the country illegally who also have been convicted of crimes or who “game the immigration system.”

The agency has also been pursuing a program intended to halt deportations of some illegal immigrants without criminal records, by exercising prosecutorial discretion to close their cases in immigration courts.

The former felons arrested in the sweep had been released from prison in past years before immigration agents were able to hold them for deportation. “We are addressing the backlog of people here unlawfully who were released to the streets because we weren’t able to respond in time,” Mr. Morton said.

The operation was carried out by agents from the deportation unit of the agency, which is known as ICE. The union representing those agents, Council 118 of the American Federation of Government Employees, has been in a protracted standoff with top officials over how to carry out the policy redirecting deportations toward criminals and sparing other illegal immigrants.

The arrests, Mr. Morton said, showed that the dispute has not hampered the agents’ work. “It’s hard to say that these issues have affected our performance or results as an agency,” he said.”

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