ICE announces nationwide arrests of thousands of convicted criminal aliens

Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday announced 2,901 arrests in 50 states and four territories during a recent week of coordinated efforts primarily targeting felons in violation of immigration law.

In what ICE Director John Morton told reporters was his agency's largest ever operation aimed at criminals, Homeland Security Department agents working with other federal, state and local agencies arrested criminal fugitives, criminal aliens who illegally re-entered the United States after deportation and at-large aliens.

The arrestees come from 115 nations, where some are wanted on additional charges; 1,282 of those detained already have multiple convictions inside the United States, ICE said.

"This is good law enforcement and good immigration law enforcement," Morton said. "Public safety is directly improved" by the pending prosecutions and deportations of the individuals, whom he described as guilty of crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, assault and burglary.

ICE officials stressed that the focus on tracking down convicted criminals who are in the Unites States illegally reflects a shift in Homeland Security priorities begun under the Obama administration in 2009. "Removing people who've committed crimes is a good use of scare resources," Morton said. "It's about prioritization." A similar operation in May resulted in arrests of 2,442.

The "cross-check" enforcement operations targeting fugitives relied on more than 1,900 ICE officers and agents from 24 field offices in the agency's Enforcement and Removal Operations. Other federal agencies that helped include the FBI; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Justice Department; Customs and Border Protection; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Secret Service; and Homeland Security's inspector general.

The cross-check operations will continue, Morton said, estimating that a million convicted criminals continue to live in the United States illegally, many of them in prisons and jails.

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