ICE raids net gang members

first_imgThe top three gangs targeted Friday – the Vineland Boys, Barrio Van Nuys and Canoga Park Alabama – also yielded the most arrests. In addition to the San Fernando Valley, ICE agents made arrests elsewhere in Los Angeles and in Palmdale. They would not give a breakdown of where the 29 arrests took place and specific details of each arrest but the crackdown comes after ICE agents set up a special task force earlier this year to work with LAPD detectives and gang officers in the Valley. Agents regularly comb through Los Angeles County gang databases to identify illegal immigrants. ICE agents said while the LAPD might offer intelligence on gangs, ICE officials decide which individual offenders to go after. “The process is looking at anybody who is foreign-born and involved in gang activity,” Schoch said. Drops in gang crime The LAPD has credited the efforts with drops in gang crime in areas such as the Northeast Valley. “There is a misnomer that criminals are somehow getting a pass, that their immigration status is not of interest to law enforcement. It is,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore, the Valley’s highest-ranked policeman. Operation Community Shield was launched by immigration officials in February 2005. Under the program, agents have arrested more than 5,000 gang members and associates nationwide from 500 different gangs. About one-quarter of those were arrested on criminal charges. The remainder faced deportation. In Los Angeles, there have been more than 800 arrests made under Operation Community Shield, with about one-third of those criminal arrests, Schoch said. In Friday’s sweep, two of the 29 will face criminal charges including Jorge Torres, 32, an alleged member of the Project Boys. Torres, who has been convicted of drug charges and assault on an officer, has been deported five times. He’s facing federal charges for re-entry after deportation, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Moore said that although officers work with immigration officials, the LAPD follows Special Order 40, a policy prohibiting the police from inquiring about a witness’s or suspect’s immigration status. Still, immigration advocates say the relationship is too cozy. “The LAPD has to be mindful of what kind of message it’s sending out,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “If they are doing high-visibility operations, in highly immigrant-populated communities and they are seen with ICE, the message that comes out is police work with immigration,” Salas said. “That means for some, `(If) I talk to police, I talk to immigration.’ They are alienating the people they are protecting.” Enforcing laws Salas said many immigrants complain that ICE agents identify themselves as “police” when they knock on doors, instead of saying they are immigration agents who have the power to deport them. ICE officials say they’re not required to identify themselves specifically unless they are serving a search warrant. There were no search warrants served in Friday’s raids. The raids come amid growing pressure to enforce laws against the 12 million foreigners living illegally in the United States. Earlier this week, immigration officials announced the arrests of 1,300 illegal immigrants in Southern California, its largest operation targeting criminal immigrants and those who defied deportation orders. Across the country, immigration officials have been raiding homes and workplaces, including McDonald’s restaurants and meatpacking factories. As Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, advocates on both sides of the issue have made their presence known. Here in Los Angeles, Judicial Watch, a conservative group, sued the LAPD last year, challenging Special Order 40. In the pending lawsuit, the group maintains that the LAPD is spending taxpayer money to enforce a harmful policy. It cites a case in which officers were prevented from asking the immigration status of a Mexican national motorist who later committed two robberies and tried to rape a woman in front of her 5-year-old son. (818) 713-3329160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas City“The key thing is to recognize we’re dealing with people with criminal histories,” Schoch said. “They’re really threatening our immigrant communities.” Friday’s effort, with LAPD officers serving as off-site backup in case of trouble, targeted 90 individuals who are documented gang members living in the country illegally. Some are accused of committing spousal abuse and property crimes, while others have ignored deportation orders, Schoch said. Of the 29 arrested, one was a woman and three were “collateral arrests,” or people not directly targeted in the sting. Agents said they are labeling those three as gang associates. About 25 percent of those targeted Friday are legal residents who have forfeited their right to remain in the country by committing crimes, Schoch said. In the largest operation of its kind in the San Fernando Valley, 240 federal agents on Friday rounded up 29 foreign nationals belonging to more than a dozen gangs that prey on the immigrant community, officials said. The early morning raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the Valley and surrounding communities were part of the agency’s Operation Community Shield, a nationwide crackdown on transnational criminals. In a similar series of raids last month, ICE arrested nine foreign-born members of the Langdon Street gang – operating in the North Hills area, said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. While only two of the 29 people arrested Friday face criminal charges apart from being in the country illegally, authorities said many of those detained had criminal histories. last_img