Nearly 600 people nationwide have been arrested in a crackdown just revealed Monday, on illegal immigrants who are in gangs. Tim Counts of the regional office of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says this was just a two-week concerted effort to find and bring in gang members. Nationwide there were 582 but he says they were busting gang members long ago and “will continue after the two-week push.” On Monday he says they arrested at least one more. “This is part of our ongoing activity with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Counts says, “but we wanted to make a real statement about gang activity and the authority we have to not only pull them off the streets, but take them out of the country.” All the investigation were connected, in a way, he says. A few years ago, the former INS was divided into two agencies: Citizenship and Immigration Services to handle naturalization and other *legal* immigrant issues, and “ICE” to crack down on violators. The thing about Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says Counts, is that “we are essentially plainclothes investigators.” Every employee of the agency works at conducting investigations, he explains. They develop leads, use intelligence, and target very specific individuals.Not all gang members are illegal aliens, he adds, but ICE homes in on those under its authority. Many gang members native-born U.S. citizens, many are not. “We are focusing on people who are not only members of criminal gangs but are in the country illegally. So we can take them off the streets and ultimately out of the country.” He says they’ve broken immigration laws as well as the laws of this country and the states they may be living in. Many of the people arrested in Iowa have been found guilty of crimes including gang-related stabbings, forgery, distributing cocaine — a whole range of crimes. But they have one thing in common — they’re in the country illegally, so they’ll all be processed for deportation. In the last two weeks the agency logged 29 gang-related illegal immigration arrests in Iowa, seven in the state of Nebraska. He emphasized this was just the count for the special enforcement push, but the agency does this kind of work all the time.
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