Department of Homeland Security unveils comprehensive immigration enforcement strategy for the nation’s interior

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
PRESS RELEASE 04/20/2006

WASHINGTON
, D.C. – Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Julie L.
Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) today unveiled a comprehensive immigration enforcement strategy
for the nation’s interior.

The new interior enforcement strategy represents the second phase of
the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), which is the Department of Homeland
Security’s multi-year plan to secure America ‘s borders and reduce
illegal migration. The first phase of the SBI remains focused on
gaining operational control of the nation’s borders through additional
personnel and technology, while also re-engineering the detention and
removal system to ensure that illegal aliens are removed from this
country quickly and efficiently.

The interior enforcement strategy will complement the Department’s
border security efforts by expanding existing efforts to target
employers of illegal aliens and immigration violators inside this
country, as well as the many criminal networks that support these
activities. The primary objectives are to reverse the tolerance of
illegal employment and illegal immigration in the United States . To
meet these objectives, the strategy sets out three primary goals or
courses of action that will be carried out simultaneously:

  • The first is to identify and remove criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and other immigration violators from this country.

  • The second is to build strong worksite enforcement and compliance programs to deter illegal employment in this country.

  • The
    third is to uproot the criminal infrastructures at home and abroad that
    support illegal immigration, including human smuggling / trafficking
    organizations and document / benefit fraud organizations.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, “Illegal
immigration poses an increasing threat to our security and public
safety, and hard-hitting interior enforcement will reinforce the strong
stance we are taking at our borders. With the interior enforcement
strategy of the Secure Border Initiative, we will aggressively target
the growing support systems that make it easier for aliens to enter the
country and find work outside of the law. This department will counter
the unscrupulous tactics of employers with intelligence-driven worksite
enforcement actions and combat exploitation by dangerous smuggling
organizations with the full force of the law.”

ICE Assistant Secretary Myers said, “This strategy lays down a
detailed roadmap for ICE and Homeland Security to pursue in addressing
the massive illegal alien problem in this country. Reversing growing
tolerance for the employment of illegal aliens and for illegal
immigration in general is critical to achieving success in this task.”

Goal one: identify and remove criminal aliens, fugitives and other immigration violators

  • Identify and remove incarcerated criminal aliens
    — The prisons and jails in this country are estimated to book roughly
    630,000 foreign-born nationals on criminal charges annually. Too often,
    the criminal aliens among this population are not removed from the
    country upon completion of their criminal sentences, but released into
    society. To combat this problem, ICE will expand its Criminal Alien
    Program to ensure these aliens are properly identified while in jail
    and removed immediately after serving their sentences.
  • Locate and remove immigration fugitives
    — There are more than 590,000 aliens at large in this country who are
    fugitives that have been ordered removed by an immigration judge. This
    number is increasing at a rate of more than 40,000 each year. ICE
    Fugitive Operations teams are charged with tasked with locating and
    arresting these fugitives. Since ICE was created in March 2003, these
    teams have arrested more than 42,000 aliens, of which 31,000 were
    fugitives. More than 29,000 of these individuals have been removed from
    the country. To help combat this problem, ICE will expand the number of
    Fugitive Operations teams from the existing 35 teams to 52 teams by the
    end of this fiscal year, with an additional 1,000 arrests projected per
    team, per year. The goal for ICE Fugitive Operation team arrests this
    fiscal year is approximately 25,000 arrests. ICE also plans to open a
    Fugitive Operation Support Center to assist field agents and officers
    in record checks and processing real-time leads from national computer
    databases.
  • Target and remove visa violators – A
    substantial portion of the illegal aliens in this country are visa
    violators, with an estimated 165,000 new visa violations occurring
    annually. ICE created the Compliance Enforcement Unit in June 2003 to
    focus on high-risk visa violators by using new computer systems such as
    the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to flag
    violators. Since its inception, this unit has sent more than 10,000
    leads to ICE field offices resulting in 2,100 arrests. ICE will be
    expanding the capacity of this unit and other visa compliance efforts
    of its field offices. The Fiscal Year 2007 budget request seeks an
    additional $10 million for ICE compliance enforcement efforts. Last
    year, ICE arrested more than 6,000 visa violators nationwide.
  • Target and remove aliens that pose criminal / national security threats
    – There are numerous illegal aliens at large in this country that pose
    criminal and/or national security threats. ICE has created several
    programs to combat this problem. ICE’s Operation Community Shield
    targets foreign-born gang members and has resulted in the arrest of
    2,400 gang members since its inception in 2005. ICE also launched
    Operation Predator in 2003 to target, among others, illegal alien child
    sex offenders. This effort has resulted in more than 7,500 arrests,
    most of whom were alien child sex offenders. ICE also has more than 200
    agents assigned to the nation’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Last year,
    these agents made roughly 270 arrests for criminal or administrative
    immigration charges.
  • Provide real-time information to law enforcement officers
    – The ICE Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) in Vermont provides
    real-time assistance 24 hours-per-day, 365 days-a-year to federal,
    state, and local law enforcement officers who are investigating or who
    have arrested foreign-born nationals involved in criminal activity. The
    LESC has responded to more than 1.3 million such requests in the last
    two fiscal years and has lodged more than 7,000 immigration detainers
    in response to such requests this fiscal year. ICE will be expanding
    the capacities of the LESC.

Goal two: build strong worksite enforcement and compliance programs to deter illegal employment

  • Punish knowing and reckless employers of illegal aliens
    – Employers that knowingly and recklessly employ illegal aliens must be
    punished. ICE has already initiated a strategic shift in the way it
    approaches such employers by bringing criminal charges against them and
    seizing their illegally-derived assets — rather than relying on the
    old tactic of administrative fines as sanctions. Last fiscal year, this
    new approach resulted in 127 criminal convictions, up from 46 the
    previous fiscal year. More employers are also being charged with money
    laundering violations, which can result in prison sentences of up to 20
    years. Last year, a single ICE worksite enforcement investigation
    resulted in a settlement and forfeiture of $15 million, an amount that
    represented the largest worksite enforcement penalty in U.S. history
    and surpassed the sum of all administrative fines from the previous
    eight years. ICE seeks to enhance its worksite enforcement
    investigations with proposed additional funding. The Administration’s
    Fiscal Year 2007 budget request seeks $41.7 million in new funds and
    171 additional agents to enhance ICE’s worksite enforcement efforts.
  • Eliminate Social Security abuses that support illegal immigration
    – Hundreds of thousands of workers in this country have registered
    “000-00-000” as a Social Security number. Millions have supplied social
    security numbers to their employers that do not match their names. This
    Social Security abuse provides a gateway for illegal aliens to obtain
    jobs. Currently, ICE does not have access to Social Security data to
    investigate these abuses. DHS is currently seeking a legislative fix in
    Congress that would provide ICE investigators with access to such data
    to combat this rampant fraud.
  • Work with Congress to build employer compliance systems
    – Employers who want to stay within the law need a clear set of rules
    to follow. ICE and DHS will seek to develop an administrative
    regulatory program to provide clearer guidance to employers.

Goal three: uproot the criminal infrastructure that supports illegal immigration

  • Target and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations
    — ICE investigations into human smuggling and trafficking
    organizations have resulted in 2,358 criminal convictions over the past
    two fiscal years. The number of ICE investigations launched into these
    organizations has increased from 2,564 in FY 2004 to 3,348 in FY 2005.
    ICE has begun applying its financial expertise to these investigations
    to target the illicit proceeds of these criminal organizations. ICE
    will continue to enhance its human smuggling and trafficking
    investigations and tighten its focus on the financial infrastructures
    of these organizations. One critical component of this effort will be
    the use of new Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST) along the
    Southwest border to pool intelligence information from numerous
    agencies to better attack these organizations. The Department of
    Homeland Security created a BEST in Laredo , TX , last summer that has
    had considerable success in targeting cross-border criminal
    organizations and related violent crime. Another BEST has been launched
    in Arizona and others are scheduled to be created in Southwest border
    locations. ICE will also be harnessing the resources of its Attaché
    offices in more than 50 foreign nations to target human smuggling and
    trafficking organizations overseas in partnership with foreign law
    enforcement.
  • Detect and deter immigration-related document and benefit fraud
    — In recent years, the problems of document and benefit fraud have
    surged, becoming increasingly sophisticated and lucrative. ICE
    established an Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit in 2003 to help address
    this problem. Over the past two years, the number of document and
    benefit fraud investigations launched by ICE has increased from 2,334
    in FY 2004 to 3,591 in FY 2005. Criminal convictions in these cases
    have increased from 559 to 992 during this period. Earlier this month,
    ICE teamed up with officials from the Department of Justice, Department
    of Labor, Department of State and other agencies to create new
    “Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces” in 10 major U.S. cities to
    combat this growing problem. Led by ICE, the task forces will build on
    existing partnerships to bring investigators together from a variety of
    agencies with expertise in different aspects of document and benefit
    fraud.

— ICE —


U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was established in March 2003
as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland
Security. ICE is comprised of four integrated divisions that form a
21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a
number of key homeland security priorities.

 

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