ICE arrests more than 1,000 people in targeted gang operation

The effort was the culmination of six weeks of work in regions across the U.S.

ByABC News
May 12, 2017, 5:25 AM

— -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement's investigative division arrested 1,378 people after a six-week long, national gang operation that concluded this week.

Of those apprehended, 1,098 were arrested on federal or state criminal charges, and the remaining 280 were arrested on non-criminal immigration violations. There were 933 U.S. citizens and 445 foreign nationals arrested, according to ICE.

The operation targeted gang members and associates involved in transnational criminal activity, including drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human smuggling and sex trafficking, murder and racketeering -– crimes "with a nexus to our border," said ICE.

"These violent criminal street gangs are the biggest threat facing our communities," said ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan during a press briefing Thursday.

He said that focus was one of the "highest priorities and will remain so" for ICE.

The operation was conducted as part of the broader and sustained operations known at "Operation Shield," which is focused on enhancing public safety in conjunction with state and local partners.

Since 2005, ICE has made 47,000 gang arrests under these ongoing operations.

During the latest surge, 1,095 of those arrested were confirmed as "gang members and affiliates," –- including 137 affiliated with the Bloods, 118 with the Sureños, 104 with MS-13, and 104 with the Crips. The remaining 283 people who claimed no gang affiliation were arrested on either criminal or administrative charges, according to ICE.

Three people arrested during this operation previously had DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. Gang affiliation and criminal activity is considered a reason to lose DACA protections.

As of Thursday, there had been no change to the DACA program, which was enacted under former President Obama to give immigrants who came to the country as children the opportunity to work in the U.S., according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

ICE said that 10 people arrested during the newest operation crossed the border as unaccompanied minors, but did not elaborate on when. Nine of them were confirmed as gang members.

The operation was national, but the greatest number of arrests came from the Houston, New York, Atlanta and Newark regions.

ICE somewhat routinely conducts such large gang surge operations. For example, last March, ICE arrested 1,133 people while targeting transnational gangs during a five-week operation.