Immigration officials arrested more than 30,000 fugitives this past yearBy ANABELLE GARAY
DALLAS — Federal agents who track down fugitives on immigration charges arrested more than 30,000 people nationally in fiscal year 2007, nearly double the previous year’s total, officials said Tuesday.
Agents on the fugitive operations teams focus on finding people who haven’t appeared for immigration hearings, or who stayed in the country after being ordered to leave by an immigration judge.
Teams also prioritize cases, looking for those who have criminal records or are considered a threat to national security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
“They are specifically targeting individuals,” said ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok. “On occasion, they’ll conduct multi-day operations in a specific geographic region.”
There were more than 30,408 arrests nationally in fiscal 2007, which ended Sept. 30, compared to 15,462 last year, ICE said.
ICE officials said the backlog of fugitives was down by 38,000 to 595,000 for the new fiscal year.
The agency has increased the number of seven-member teams devoted to tracking down fugitives, from 52 in fiscal year 2006 to 75 now. Rusnok said he knew of no plans to increase the number further.
ICE said better coordination and information sharing with state and local law enforcement also has helped bolster arrests of immigration fugitives.
Administrative warrants for fugitive immigrants now turn up when local authorities run a check on the National Crime Information Center’s database, said Tina Tucker, acting director of the ICE’s Dallas field office.
In another backlog-reducing measure, ICE since last year has been coordinating with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to identify incarcerated fugitives, who are deported once they have completed their sentences.
Last year ICE also opened up its Fugitive Operations Support Center in Vermont. The center helps gather and analyze information on fugitive cases across the country, and has passed on more than 150,000 leads to ICE agents, the agency said.