(The Center Square) – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested several individuals in the Houston and Harlingen field offices as part of an immigration enforcement operation called “Operation Secure Streets.” Houston area agents of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations team apprehended individuals between Sept. 12 and 30; Harlingen agents apprehended individuals between August 20 and Sept. 30.
While ICE ERO offices have been stripped to a skeleton crew, according to officials who’ve pointed out the Biden administration is removing far less individuals than previous administrations, some of the most dangerous offenders are still being removed.
In Houston, agents arrested 18 illegal foreign nationals residing in the Houston area and two in the Harlingen area who were previously convicted of DWIs and had criminal histories. Criminal histories, ICE says, include felony DWIs, DWIs resulting in bodily injury, property damage or death, as well as assault, cruelty toward children, weapons violations, domestic violence, fraud, homicide by vehicle, hit-and-run and larceny.
“The 18 unlawfully present noncitizens apprehended in the Houston area during the operation account for a combined total of 46 DWIs, with one individual having been convicted seven times for driving while he was intoxicated,” Matt Baker, ICE ERO acting field office director for the Houston Field Office, said. “That kind of callous disregard for public safety puts the lives of everyone in our community in danger. By conducting a targeted public safety-focused immigration enforcement operation like this, we are able to hone in on those unlawfully present individuals who present the gravest threat to the public and at the same time fulfill our critical mission to uphold our nation’s immigration laws.”
Among them include a 37-year-old previously removed Salvadoran national and documented MS-13 gang member who’d been convicted of two DWIs. He was apprehended in Houston and remains in ICE custody pending disposition of his immigration proceedings.
Another includes a 54-year-old previously removed Mexican national convicted of seven prior DWIs. He was apprehended in Liberty, Texas, and removed to Mexico on Sept. 23.
Another includes a 37-year-old four-time previously removed Mexican national who’d been convicted three times for illegally entering the U.S., twice for DWI, and once for a weapons offense. He was apprehended in Houston, is currently charged with illegal re-entry, and remains in ICE custody pending disposition of his criminal and immigration proceedings.
Another includes a 42-year-old Salvadoran national convicted of two DWIs and for fleeing the scene of an accident he caused while he was intoxicated. He was apprehended in Houston and remains in ICE custody pending disposition of his immigration proceedings.
Harlingen agents arrested a 41-year-old Guatemalan national convicted of driving while intoxicated, second, in Pharr, Texas, who remains in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.
They also arrested a 43-year-old Mexican national convicted of driving while intoxicated third or more. He was arrested in Mission, Texas, and will return to ICE custody after completing his criminal case to continue removal proceedings.
“We will continue firm with our commitment to public safety, and removing noncitizens who have been convicted of DUIs is part of our responsibility to keep our communities safe,” acting ERO Harlingen Field Office Director Miguel Vergara said.
Those placed into removal proceedings go before a federal immigration judge in immigration court administered by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a Department of Justice agency that’s separate from the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. Once the judge makes a determination based on the merits of the case, ICE agents carry out their removal decisions. Some cases may be referred to a U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to ICE data, in fiscal year 2021, ERO conducted 74,082 administrative arrests of illegal foreign nationals, including arresting 12,025 individuals with aggravated felony convictions. Offenses associated with noncitizens arrested in fiscal 2021 included 1,506 homicide related offenses, 3,415 sexual assaults, 19,549 assaults, 2,717 robberies, and 1,063 kidnappings.