A total of 1,057 arrests have been made through "Operation Community Shield," an initiative launched by the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau. About 580 arrests were made during a two-week nationwide operation that ended last week.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said during a press conference that "Gang enforcement is part of the very fabric of the mission here at ICE and at the Department of Homeland Security, because gang violence is a very serious threat to the public welfare and the public safety of all of our communities."
The initiative started in February and targeted the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang. The program was expanded in May to include all criminal street gangs and prison gangs with foreign-born members, including Sureños, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Vatos Locos, Mexican Mafia, La Raza, Border Brothers, Brown Pride, Norteno, Florencia 13, Tiny Rascal, Asian Boyz and Jamaican Posse.
Those arrested are accused of various criminal offenses or immigration violations. Seventy-six have been charged with criminal violations that range from illegally re-entering the United States after deportation, to being an alien in possession of a firearm, to possession of fraudulent documents.
About 40 ICE offices and dozens of state and local law enforcement agencies have been involved in the effort, as well as the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Chertoff said about 950 of those arrested are eligible to be deported. But he acknowledged that border security must improve to prevent gang members who have been deported from illegally slipping back into the country.
"One of the things we're focused on very intently now, both at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and all over the government, is putting together a comprehensive strategy that will in fact get us real control of the borders," Chertoff said. "And that includes use of modern technology that gives us better surveillance. It includes changes in the infrastructure, roads and vehicle barriers that will give us a little better ability to intercept people who come across. It involves working with our counterparts in Mexico and other parts of the world in restraining people from coming back in."
He added that DHS officials have been working with members of Congress during the past few weeks "to develop our full set of measures with respect to border control."