Nearly 300 Deported In Major California Operation

Nearly 300 deported in major California operation

December 11, 2009

LOS ANGELES—-Nearly 300 foreign nationals with criminal records have been deported from the United States or face removal after a three-day immigration enforcement operation, officials said Friday.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement hailed the 286 arrests as the “biggest operation targeting at large criminal aliens” it has ever carried out, involving more than 400 agents and officers from ICE, the US Marshals Service, as well as state and local agencies.

Those arrested — 257 men and 29 women — came from more than 30 countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Most — 207 — were Mexican nationals, followed by 19 from El Salvador, 10 from Guatemala and seven from India, an ICE spokeswoman told AFP. There were only between one and three nationals from the other countries.

At least 100 of the criminal immigrants have already been removed from the United States. More than 80 percent of them had prior convictions for rape, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and other serious crimes.

The group also included 30 convicted sex offenders, including child molesters.

“Legal immigration is an important part of our country's history and the American dream exists for many immigrants,” Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary and ICE chief John Morton said in a statement.

“However, that dream involves playing by the rules and those who break our criminal laws will be removed from the country. Sadly, many of the people victimized by aliens who commit crimes are other members of the immigrant community, who are following the rules.”

The United States is home to around 12 million illegal immigrants, most of them workers who pay taxes after obtaining false identification for work as cleaners, cooks and construction workers.

At least 17 of those arrested during the enforcement operation will face further federal prosecution because they re-entered the country illegally after a formal deportation. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.

The immigrants came from US neighbors Mexico and Canada as well as Bolivia, Britain, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.