Agents Comb Jails For Immigrant Offenders

Agents comb jails for immigrant offenders
Crackdown leads to sharp increase in deportations

By Paul Shukovsky
The Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 14, 2008

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reinforced by more agents in the Pacific Northwest, has been combing through more jails looking for foreign-born inmates arrested on criminal charges.

The result has been a large increase in deportations from Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

In the nine months since October, deportations have jumped 39 percent over the same period last year.

So far this fiscal year, ICE has deported 7,345 people compared with 5,256 last year.

And the number of deportees who have criminal convictions has jumped by 26 percent to 2,024 from 1,594.

Neil Clark, director of detention and removal operations for the three states, credited the spike in deportations to an increase in the number of agents dedicated to the Criminal Alien Program, in which agents specifically maintain liaison with municipal, county and state jails.

In addition to interviewing foreign-born inmates, the agents run names through ICE digital indexes to determine if inmates are wanted for ignoring a deportation order.

Foreign-born U.S. citizens are not eligible for deportation, Clark said.

But lawfully admitted, resident aliens can be deported if they have committed crimes such as an aggravated felony, more than one misdemeanor or crimes of moral turpitude.

In addition to increased staffing in the Criminal Alien Program, ICE added a Fugitive Operations team of agents in Yakima last year that searches for alien fugitives living in the community, he said.

Fugitive teams were already in place in Seattle and in Oregon.

Clark would not reveal the specific number of agents dedicated to seeking out and deporting criminal aliens.

But he said, 'We've had significant increases.'