Immigration and Customs Enforcement's announcement of over 2,400 arrests -- 81 of them in Colorado and Wyoming -- stresses that ICE is focusing on rounding up criminal aliens.
This emphasis makes sense given mounting evidence here and nationwide that assorted authorities are going well beyond this mandate.
Back in January, a study by the Migration Policy Institute found that two-thirds of non-citizens nabbed in Colorado under a program that gives local officers the power to enforce federal immigration laws hadn't committed any crimes.
More recently, Department of Homeland Security personnel participated in a raid on Wildcat Dairy in Morgan County, where twenty workers were indicted on charges of criminal impersonation for allegedly using forged social security and alien-registration cards to get a job -- an action that sent shock waves through the immigrant community of Fort Morgan.
There's also the case of Gerardo Noriega, a twenty-year-old Smoky Hills High School graduate who's fighting deportation after being pulled over for a broken tail light. And in the feature article "Disappearing Act," Melanie Asmar reports that ICE routinely deports undocumented passengers in vehicles driven by alleged human smugglers, making prosecution of the latter all but impossible.
Against this backdrop, ICE recently instituted a policy directing the organization's officers and attorneys to ensure that crime victims and witnesses aren't immediately deported.
As for the recent arrests, an ICE press release describes them as being "part of the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens that threaten public and national security."
Arrests from the so-called "Cross Check" operations took place in all fifty states, with 78 of them in Colorado and three in Wyoming. Well represented were Denver, with 29 busts, followed by Aurora (thirteen) and Commerce City (seven). Another 29 people were arrested in a total of sixteen other Colorado communities.
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At this writing, ICE has not responded to a Westword request for additional information about Colorado arrestees, including details about the crimes they're accused of committing and their country of origin. However, the ICE release spotlights one Denver case -- a 51-year-old man from Libya convicted of first-degree sexual assault against a child and a domestic-violence assault.
"ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts first on removing those serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security," the release maintains. "ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or those criminal aliens who have illegally re-entered the country after having been previously deported."
Doubt that these assertions will reassure Gerardo Noriego and those workers at Wildcat Dairy.
More from our Immigration archive: "Jeanette Vizguerra deportation decision delayed, but supporters promise fight will go on."