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Immigration Authorities Arrest 1,313 Gang Members in 19-State Sweep, None in Mississippi

Filed 10/9/07  GCN

A comprehensive national law enforcement operation led by federal agents and officers of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resulted in the arrest of 1,313 violent street gang members, associates and illegal aliens in 23 cities across 19 states.

In a joint effort with federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners, ICE federal agents and officers spearheaded a three-month enforcement surge that targeted violent street gangs, their criminal associates and activities.

“Violent foreign-born gang members represent a threat to communities across the nation.  Working closely with our federal, state and local partners, Operation Community Shield has resulted in the arrest of more than 7,500 gang members and associates since its inception, and more than 1,300 just this summer,” said Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE.  “Violent foreign-born gang members and their associates have more than worn out their welcome, and to them I have one message: good riddance.”

The summer push that began on June 1 has resulted in the arrest of large numbers of gang members in New York (205), Miami (160), San Diego (128), Dallas (121), Raleigh, N.C. (93), and Oklahoma City (65). Gang members were also arrested in locations including Milwaukee, Wis.; Indianapolis, Ind. Phoenix, Ariz.; Boise, Idaho; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Newark, N.J.; Boston, Mass.; Fort Smith, Ark.; Detroit, Mich.; Las Vegas, Nev., Orlando and Fort Myers, Fla.; St. Paul, Minn.; Los Angeles and San Jose, Calif.; and Albuquerque, N.M. 

The arrests are the result of “Operation Community Shield,” a comprehensive initiative launched by ICE in 2005 to disrupt and dismantle transnational violent street gangs. Through Operation Community Shield, the federal government has uses d its powerful immigration and customs authorities in a methodical national campaign against criminal street gangs in the United States.

Collier County, Fla., Sheriff Don Hunter notes that, “Criminal illegal immigrants are committing crimes and victimizing our residents and it is our responsibility to investigate their immigration status thoroughly while investigating their other crimes. We have the resources and tools to do that now.  It is part of our mission.”

During the last 27 months, Operation Community Shield has resulted in the arrest of more than 7,655 members and associates of approximately 700 different gangs and the seizure of 287 firearms.  Of those arrested, 107 were gang leaders. Many of those arrested under Operation Community Shield are prosecuted criminally and eventually removed from the United States. To date, 2,444 have been charged criminally, while 5,211 have been charged with immigration violations and processed for removal.

In May, ICE agents, working with other members of the ICE-led Gang Investigation Unit in Newark, N.J., and in conjunction with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office arrested 19 subjects in an enforcement operation that dismantled a criminal enterprise run by members of the Latin Kings street gang in northern Hudson County. Tito Lopez, a.k.a. “King Chino,” 28, from Guttenberg, was one of the 19 arrested in Hudson County and is allegedly a high-ranking Latin King gang member and leader of the drug distribution organization. “King Chino” Lopez is allegedly responsible for leading fellow gang members in a variety of criminal activities including  drug distribution, burglaries, witness intimidation, assaults and weapon sales. In all, the operation netted five federal, 12 state and two ICE administrative arrests. Additionally, 340 grams of cocaine, over one pound of marijuana and crack cocaine were seized during the investigation.

In July, ICE agents, working with the Fort Worth, Texas, Police Gang Unit and other federal and state agencies, arrested Paul Perez and Samson Flores. A search of their residence yielded cocaine, marijuana, an arsenal of weapons and $65, 454.00 in U.S. currency.  Alex Perez, a U.S. citizen, is a known Varrio North Side (VNS) gang member.

Law enforcement partnerships impact violent crime:

Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to share intelligence on gang organizations and their leadership, share resources and combine legal authorities to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members.

In addition to MS-13, targeted gangs included Surenos-13, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips, and Vatos Locos to name a few.

Of the 1,313 individuals arrested in the latest action, 343 have a violent criminal history. ICE agents arrested 374 of the individuals on new criminal charges ranging from drug, assault, and firearms violations to charges of re-entering the country after deportation. The rest have been accused of immigration violations and were placed into deportation proceedings.

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