April 30, 2008

Federal agents sweep Athens businesses

April 30, 2008 09:47 am

Federal agents sweep Athens businesses

Homeland Security ICE team in town to hunt for fugitives with help of local police department

By Rich Flowers

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents searched at least two Athens businesses Tuesday as part of a nationwide effort to locate and remove fugitive aliens.

ICE Public Information Officer Carl Rusnok, from the regional office in Dallas, confirmed the searches were part of an ongoing operation, but would not give details about the size or area covered by the fugitive roundup. ICE operates under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security under the Auspices of Detention and Removal.

Shortly before noon, ICE agents, aided by local law enforcement officers, entered Donut Supreme at 707 W. Corsicana St. and Dallas Manufacturing at 300 Athens Brick Road. Witnesses said officers converged on the Donut shop in a large white van, a black SUV and a vehicle that appeared to be a police car. Agents entered the business and stayed inside for several minutes. Later, the owner and his family got into a personal vehicle and left the business. There did not appear to be any arrests made at the scene, witnesses said.

Rusnok would not comment on whether any arrests were made in Athens Tuesday.

“All I can say is we’re specifically targeting fugitive aliens. These are aliens who have received final orders of deportation from a federal immigration judge,” Rusnok said.

“The agents are seeking individuals in a specific geographic area,” Rusnok said. “This is what our Fugitive Operations Teams do.”

Athens Police Chief Buddy Hill said his department was notified of the presence of federal agents in town Tuesday morning. His officers were asked to assist at several locations.

ICE established the first Fugitive Operations Teams in 2003. By the end of 2007, there were 75 teams deployed in various locations around the United States. The agents in Athens are from the Dallas office, which was set up last year.

According to DHS figures, there are more than 450,000 absconders and the number is growing by more than 40,000 each year. The DHS goal is to eliminate the fugitive population within 10 years.

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