WASHINGTON—A targeted operation to go after domestic violence abusers from July 13 to Aug. 20 has netted more than 2,000 arrests of illegal immigrants.
The vast majority, 85 percent, either had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data. The remaining 15 percent were fugitives who were in the country illegally.
The operation began solely focused on aliens with domestic violence convictions and charges, said Henry Lucero, executive associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.
“Because we know a lot more people are spending time at home to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we wanted to do anything we could to prevent people from getting hurt, especially in their own homes,” Lucero said during a media call on Sept. 1.
But, he said, the scope widened to include aliens who have been previously convicted or charged with any crimes involving victims.
“We’re talking crimes like murder, sexual assault, domestic violence, hit-and-run, kidnapping, identity theft,” Lucero said. “Behind nearly every arrest is a victim whose life has been harmed as a result of criminal activity.”
In the Bronx borough of New York, ICE agents apprehended a 43-year-old Mexican national who had been arrested on April 17 by the New York Police Department for assault with intent to cause physical harm, strangulation with criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, and aggravated harassment causing physical injury to a family member, according to ICE.
In Virginia, ICE agents picked up Edwin Nahun Mendoza-Santos, a 38-year-old citizen of Honduras, who was convicted in Brunswick, Virginia, in September 2019 of assault and battery on a family member. In May, he was charged with aggravated sexual battery of a minor less than 13 years of age.
Lucero said many of the arrested individuals had more than one criminal conviction or pending charge.
A Mexican national who also is a registered sex offender was arrested in Pomona, California. Juan José Martinez, 45, was convicted in 2004 of battery on a spouse/ex-spouse and convicted again in 2011 of seven counts of lewd acts upon a child, for which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The 2,000-plus individuals have racked up convictions and charges including 291 convictions and 216 pending charges for domestic violence; 83 convictions and 64 pending charges for sexual offenses (including rape, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and failure to register as a sex offender); 136 convictions and 63 pending charges for family offenses (including neglect and cruelty toward a spouse or child); 71 convictions and 40 pending charges for sexual offenses involving a minor; and 14 convictions and 12 pending charges for homicide.
If the victims or witnesses of crimes are in the country illegally, they aren’t put into deportation proceedings, absent themselves being a dangerous criminal, Lucero said. In some cases, victims can be eligible for a visa.
“We think that the results of this operation have made many victims feel more safe now that these perpetrators are not going back to their communities, to potentially re-victimize and re-offend,” he said.
In general, ICE has made fewer arrests than usual in the past few months, due to the pandemic, but the focus has been to target criminal aliens, Lucero said.
In fiscal 2019, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested individuals with more than 1,900 convictions and charges for homicide, 1,800 for kidnapping, 12,000 sex offenses, 5,000 sexual assaults, 45,000 assaults, 67,000 crimes involving drugs, 10,000 weapons offenses, and 74,000 DUIs.