More undocumented immigrants being detained

12/04/07 Mitch E. Perry
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U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) announced today that deportation officers in Florida made a record number of arrests of illegal immigrants in the past year. The Miami field office also covers Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Sean Teeling is assistant field director for the Miami region. He says the increase in arrests is due to Congress funding for Fugitive Operations Teams, groups whose focus is removing illegal immigrants who have outstanding deportations or exclusions orders.

The Miami office made 2,579 arrests last year, compared with 1,456 the year before. Nationally, ICE announced that its Fugitive Operations Team arrested more than 30,000 individuals last year, nearly double the 15,462 in 2006.

There are currently 75 Fugitive Operations Teams across the country. Their mandate is to reduce the backlog of warrants for immigrants who have been ordered to leave the U.S.

According to federal audits done by the Inspector General for Homeland Security and originally reported by the Dallas Morning News, ICE has placed quotas on fugitive operations to get 1,000 people a year, up from goals of 125 a year back in 2003.

But Sean Teeling from the Miami office denied that report.

John Ovink, an immigration attorney who works in Tampa and Plant City, says the increased raids by ICE are not a surprise. In fact, Ovink says he has heard that another way that ICE is raising its arrest numbers is by observing procedures conducted in traffic courts.

Another factor in the increase is that local law enforcement agencies are working more closely with the government. Just in the past few years, more than two dozen municipal and state law enforcement agencies have been certified to arrest people under federal immigration law.

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