Two days after it enacted a controversial clampdown on illegal immigration throughout Connecticut, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a four-day raid ending Monday that rounded up 45 “convicted criminal aliens” in this state and Massachusetts, ICE reported Wednesday.
The sting was codenamed “Operation Threats Against the Community.”
Helped by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers collected 40 men and women in Connecticut ranging from 21 to 57 years of age. Some of the arrests occurred in Bridgeport, Stratford, Shelton, Trumbull and Derby. Five more people were taken into custody in Massachusetts, ICE said.
The raid took place as state officials had just aired concerns about a new Department of Homeland Security program called “Secure Communities,” which officials fear will turn local law enforcement into de facto immigration agents. The program, which began in Fairfield County two years ago and has fostered anxiety across the country, allows ICE to request that local law enforcement detain undocumented aliens for up to 48 hours after an arrest, even after bail has been posted.
Immigration advocates worry that doing so will allow deportation proceedings to take place before an undocumented immigrant has the chance to defend himself in court. Advocates also questioned ICE’s commitment to only targeting undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes. And state officials said that it might hamper local law enforcement’s ability to build trust with immigration groups in their respective municipalities.
In a release about this latest raid, ICE – which is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security – stated that all but one of the 45 people arrested had prior criminal convictions, including 18 with multiple convictions and 24 with prior felonies. The remaining person had outstanding arrest warrants in New York and Texas, ICE said, and will be extradited to New York State Police.
The sweep follows a similar one, conducted last November, that included 53 arrests in Massachusetts, ICE said.
Deportations are on the rise. Last year, ERO removed 396,906 individuals nationwide, marking the third year in a row that it had eclipsed the number of removals in fiscal year 2008, ICE stated.
Nearly 55 percent of those removed last year had been convicted of prior misdemeanors and felonies, ICE said. That included 1,119 people convicted of homicide; 5,848 convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 convicted of driving under the influence.
Of the arrestees this past weekend, 17 hail from Jamaica; five from the Dominican Republic; three from Poland; two from Brazil, Mexico and Peru; and one from each of the following countries: Bosnia, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, England, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Montserrat, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia and Tanzania.
All but one of them is being held in the ERO’s custody, pending deportation proceedings.
While names were not released, ICE offered the following information about the people arrested:
• A national of the Dominican Republic had been convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, gaming, smuggling U.S. currency, knowingly receiving stolen property and malicious destruction of property.
• A national of El Salvador had been convicted assault and battery of a minor and failing to register as a sex offender.
• A national of Jamaica had been convicted of carrying a weapon without a permit, risk of injury to a minor, eight counts of the illegal discharge of a firearm and three counts of assault on a police officer.
• A national of Haiti had been convicted of assault in the second degree, two convictions for assault in the third degree, sale of illegal narcotics and resisting arrest.
• A national of Canada had been convicted of indecent assault and battery of a minor.
• A national of Jamaica had been convicted of assault, sale and possession of controlled substances.
“This operation is one of the many tools that ERO uses to effectively reduce crime at the street level in communities throughout New England,” said Dorothy Herrera-Niles, ERO’s Boston field office director who oversees the agency in New England.