32 illegal immigrants arrested in federal roundup
By Andria Simmons
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 27, 2010
Federal authorities have arrested 32 illegal immigrants in Georgia who had committed crimes or had absconded after a judge ordered them to leave the country.
The detainees were rounded up in a four-day operation that concluded Friday and spanned Houston, Peach, Bibb, Dougherty, Toombs and Thomas counties. Many of them are subject to immediate removal since they have outstanding deportation orders or previously were deported, said Ivan Ortiz-Delgado, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The remainder will stay in ICE custody until their criminal cases are completed, they get a hearing before an immigration judge or travel arrangements out of the country can be made.
'A top priority for the Atlanta field office is to locate and arrest criminal aliens and ultimately remove them from our country in a safe and humane manner,' said Felicia Skinner, field office director for the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations in Atlanta.
Christopher Taylor, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in immigration law, has been critical of ICE priorities in the past. However, he said the agency appears to taking steps in the right direction with last week's operation.
'Any time ICE is able to allocate its resources into removing criminal aliens and those that have previously been deported, instead of tearing apart families of those immigrants that have not committed felonies or serious misdemeanors, I am satisfied that we are moving in the right direction,' Taylor said.
'Certainly we want ICE to keep our country, communities and borders safe from criminal aliens; however, at the same time, I would like to see our limited resources focused on removing those aliens that commit crimes rather than on those that commit traffic offenses.'
The Rev. Gregory M. Williams, president of Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment, agreed that serious criminals who are illegal immigrants should be deported. However, he believes immigration reform is necessary to address thousands of other illegal immigrants who want to live and work here peacefully.
'If where I'm living my family is starving and malnourished, and I look across a fence and I see prosperity and hope, I don't know about you, but I'm going to jump that fence,' Williams said. 'I know it's an extremely complicated issue, but it needs to be dealt with.'
ICE fugitive operations teams made 30,787 arrests nationwide in the fiscal year that ended August 20.
Thirteen of the Georgia detainees had prior criminal convictions on charges including re-entry after deportation, drunken driving, weapons violations, and assault and disorderly conduct, among others, Ortiz-Delgado said.
Four of the detainees returned to the United States illegally after being deported. They will be prosecuted in federal court in the Middle District of Georgia and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Fifteen of the individuals disobeyed a final order of deportation issued by an immigration judge.
A majority of the group is from Mexico or Central American countries. However, two of the detainees are from China and one is from India.
The number of immigration fugitives in the United States is estimated at 525,000, about 71,000 fewer than were in the country three years ago, Ortiz-Delgado said.