ICE targets immigrant felons in Central Florida

ICE arrests 25 immigrants in target operation

In what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) spokesperson Tammy Spice called a targeted operation conducted from February 29 to March 4, the agency arrested 25 immigrants in Central Florida, including Caribbean nationals from Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos Islands.

According to Spicer, the only individuals who were arrested were convicted on charges meeting ICE’s “enforcement priorities.”  This only included “threats to national security, border security and public safety.” Some of the felonies apprehended in the Orlando had felony convictions for serious or violent offenses including manslaughter, child abuse, armed burglary, false imprisonment, weapons and drug violation.

The second ICE priority for detention is for repeated, three or more, “significant misdemeanors” including sexual abuse or exploitation; domestic violence and driving under the influence. Some of those arrested were also felons convicted of felony DUI, hit and run, and racketeering.

Spicer says she understands the sensitivity of the Caribbean American community regarding ICE operations, but pointed out the agency’s operations raids are primarily against convicted felons, not the general undocumented immigrant community.

“Law abiding residents need to have no fear of ICE,” said Spicer.

“ICE is a feared agency, especially within the undocumented immigrant community,” said Desiree Lindo, a Homestead immigration advocate and a member of Florida’s Immigration Coalition. “[But] once immigrants documented or undocumented adhere to state and federal laws and avoid criminal activities especially those that could attract felony charges they should have nothing to fear from ICE. However, let me stress, ICE has authority to target all immigrants who are convicted as felons, not only undocumented immigrants.”

Lindo, however, acknowledged that young immigrants were more vulnerable to “be easily led to join criminal gangs.”  Immigrant families should be “very aware” that convictions for criminal gang activity is included in ICE’s top priority.

Current ICE enforcement priorities were refocused in November 2014, by the  Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “to prioritize the use of enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets to support the Department’s civil immigration enforcement priorities. ICE continues to work with local law enforcement partners to uphold public safety, while taking dangerous criminals out of our communities.”

In 2015, ICE apprehended 235,413 individuals, of which, according to the agency, “the vast majority…were convicted criminals who fell within ICE’s civil immigration enforcement priorities.” Ninety-eight percent of those apprehensions were included under the agency’s immigration enforcement priorities. The apprehension of immigrants who were convicted criminals increased from 82 percent in 2013 to 91 percent in 2015.

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