LOS ANGELES（ICE）– When officers assigned to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Los Angeles-based Fugitive Alien Removal (FAR) unit arrived at the international suspect’s Alhambra home Tuesday morning, their arrest target seemed utterly unfazed as officers explained he was being taken into custody on immigration violations.
Like most of the foreign fugitives encountered by the FAR unit, the Asian man, who is accused in his native country of posing as a wealthy businessman to elicit sex and money from numerous unwitting women, appeared unaware the officers’ unannounced visit was spurred by an arrest warrant issued six years ago and half a world away.
Virtually every week, the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations’ (ERO) FAR unit conducts enforcement actions aimed at locating, arresting, and ultimately repatriating individuals designated by the agency as “high profile removals.” The classification includes foreign nationals, like the man described above, who are wanted for serious crimes in their native countries; as well as individuals deemed to be national security threats; human rights violators; and other special interest cases.
Last fiscal year, ERO officers in Los Angeles took custody of and repatriated 28 high-profile foreign nationals, more than any other ICE office in the nation’s interior. Among those high-profile removals was a Mexican sushi chef wanted in his native country for fatally slashing a woman in the back of cab; a Mara Salvatrucha gang member charged with assassinating a Salvadoran government prosecutor; and a Korean diaper importer accused in a multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme.
While historically the vast majority of the high-profile removals both in the Southland and statewide involve foreign fugitives who fled to the U.S. to avoid prosecution for significant offenses in their native countries, some of cases have a nexus to national security. In February, ICE removed a Turkish woman formerly from Orange County, who was convicted in the United States of providing material support to terrorists to harm U.S. interests overseas.
“Foreign nationals with terrorist ties, human rights violators, and fugitives sought for serious crimes should know they will find no refuge in the U.S.,” said David Jennings, field office director for Los Angeles ERO. “As a law enforcement agency charged with protecting our homeland, ICE will continue to focus its immigration enforcement efforts on those who pose a threat to national security and public safety.”
Nationwide, ICE repatriated 351 individuals in fiscal year 2015 who were classified as high-profile removals – 274 were wanted for crimes committed overseas, often of a very serious or violent nature; 20 were classified as human rights violators; and 54 were considered national security threats. Forty-five of the high-profile removals were carried out by ICE offices in California.
In many instances, the successful outcome of these high-profile cases is the result of tips provided by private citizens. Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives, human rights violators, or individuals who may pose a national security threat are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1 (866) 347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also file a tip online by completing ICE’s online tip form.
Additionally, ERO works closely with the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office of International Operations, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives who are believed to be illegally present in the United States. Once ICE obtains a final removal order, ERO coordinates with government authorities in the receiving countries to facilitate the actual repatriation of the fugitives, human rights violators, and other priority individuals.
ICE is focused on smart and effective immigration enforcement, prioritizing its resources to focus on those who pose the greatest threat to national security, border security and public safety, as detailed in this November 2014 directive by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
In fiscal 2015, ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals. Of this total, 165,935 were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States. The remaining 69,478 were apprehended in the interior of the United States, and the vast majority of these were convicted criminals who fell within ICE’s civil immigration enforcement priorities.
Ninety-eight percent of ICE’s fiscal 2015 removals and returns fell into one or more of ICE’s civil immigration enforcement priorities, with 86 percent falling in Priority 1 and eight percent in Priority 2. In addition, ICE’s interior enforcement activities led to an increase in the percentage of interior removals that were convicted criminals, growing from 82 percent in fiscal 2013 to 91 percent in 2015.