By: Bethany Blankley | The Center Square
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents continue to arrest dangerous criminals who illegally entered the U.S.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE-ERO) Los Angeles agents arrested 26 convicted criminals who were illegally living in the U.S. during a two-day enforcement operation that took place between Dec. 18 and Dec. 20, ICE says.
Among them were men who committed a violent crime in Los Angeles, were arrested, charged, prosecuted and found guilty, and were all convicted by the Superior Court of California.
They include a 19-year-old El Salvadoran national convicted of felony sexual forcible oral copulation of a minor over 14 years old and battery by restraint; a 40-year-old Mexican citizen convicted of felony lewd acts with a child and continuous sexual abuse; and a 35-year-old Guatemalan citizen convicted of felony child molestation in an inhabited dwelling.
ERO Los Angeles FOD Thomas Giles said, “Removing these individuals and the threats they represent from our communities is our mission, and we will continue to safely and effectively enforce the immigration laws of our nation.”
ICE ERO agents have been removing dangerous criminals wanted in their home countries after they’ve fled to the U.S. to avoid going to prison. They’ve also been arresting MS-13 gang members on El Salvador’s Top 100 list, a Brazilian military officer involved in a 2015 massacre, and those with criminal convictions for certain felonies or other crimes. These include “murder for hire, manslaughter, sex crimes against children, assault with a firearm, battery, domestic violence, drug trafficking, possession of a controlled substance and driving under the influence.”
While these are positive actions, law enforcement officials have told The Center Square some of the most dangerous people in society are illegally entering the U.S. who never should have been able to enter to begin with. They’ve told The Center Square they blame U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for changing federal removal policy established by Congress.
In a September 2021 memo, Mayorkas instructed ICE agents that illegal entry is no longer a crime in itself or a deportable offense, even though federal law specifically states that it is. His policy states: “The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them. We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country’s well-being require it.”
Texas and Louisiana immediately sued, arguing his directive was unconstitutional; 18 states agreed. By June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to the states, arguing they didn’t have standing, or a legal right, to challenge the policy. The ruling effectively allowed DHS to continue a policy the states argue has led to more violent criminals being released into the U.S.
Many news organizations reported the Supreme Court ruling would allow the administration to prioritize deporting violent criminals. But under the Biden administration, deportations immediately dropped by two-thirds in its first fiscal year, according to CBP data. In fiscal 2021, deportations also dropped to the lowest level since fiscal 1996 despite record-high illegal entries, The Center Square first reported.
After the June ruling, ICE-ERO agents prioritized finding and removing illegal aliens with existing criminal convictions who pose a threat to public safety. While fiscal 2023 data has not yet been released, in fiscal 2022, nationwide, ICE ERO agents arrested 46,396 criminal aliens with 198,498 associated charges and convictions. These include 21,531 assault offenses; 8,164 sex and sexual assault offenses; 5,554 weapons offenses; 1,501 homicide-related offenses; and 1,114 kidnapping offenses, according to ICE data.
In fiscal 2022, ICE ERO agents also conducted 72,177 removals to over 150 countries, the agency states.
Mayorkas’ removal policy only worsened the federal government’s preexisting removal backlog, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, pointed out in several congressional hearings this year. He asked Mayorkas at one hearing why over one million people living in the U.S. illegally with deportation orders hadn’t been removed. Mayorkas replied that the immigration system was broken and not everyone has been given due process.
Gaetz estimated: “It would take 14.5 years to deport just the aliens DHS has released under the Biden Administration, when we have near 1.9 million aliens eligible for deportation currently.” Since then, that number has only increased.
Since January 2021, when President Joe Biden first entered office, over 10 million foreign nationals have been reported illegally entering the U.S., The Center Square first reported.