08:58 AM CST on Wednesday, December 5, 2007
By DIANNE SOLÍS / The Dallas Morning News
New fugitive operations teams more than doubled their arrests of illegal immigrants in North Texas during the past fiscal year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday.
ICE officials said the teams made 1,635 arrests in the 2007 fiscal year, up from 606 arrests in the previous year.
But only 699 of those arrested – fewer than half – were people classified by ICE as "fugitives" – foreign-born people in the U.S. unlawfully who have failed to appear for immigration hearings or who fail to leave the country after having been ordered to do so by a federal immigration judge. The rest were illegal immigrants captured at locations visited by ICE. Arrested immigrants with criminal convictions numbered 168, according to ICE.
Tina Tucker, deputy field operations director for detentions and removal, attributed the increase in arrests to an increase in the teams. There are now 75 such teams in the nation, up from 50 a year ago. Three teams, up from one a year ago, are located in the Dallas regional office of ICE.
A year ago, an inspector general's report for the Homeland Security Department found that there were about 624,000 illegal immigrants classified as fugitives in the U.S. Since then, the backlog has been whittled to fewer than 595,000, ICE officials said Tuesday.
"This is the first year that we have actually shown a reduction in fugitives," Ms. Tucker said.