Immigration officials arrest 20 convicts in Madison area - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Immigration arrests in Madison part of "ongoing enforcement initiative"

Posted: Updated: Feb 3, 2014 05:40 PM CST

MADISON, Wisconsin (WKOW) -- A total of 20 people, all in the country illegally and previously convicted of crimes, were arrested in the Madison area last week.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the arrests, which occurred Friday and Saturday, in a news release issued Monday.

"We are committed to protecting the public safety of our communities and what better way to start than with illegal aliens who are also committing crimes here in the United States?" said ICE Public Affairs Officer Gail Montenegro.

Montenegro said the raid is part of an "ongoing enforcement initiative" by ICE. The most recent, comparable bust in the Madison area occurred in December, 2012, when agents arrested 17 people in three days, she said.

Of the 20 arrested last weekend, 13 were taken into custody in Madison. Four people were arrested in Jefferson, two were arrested in Watertown and one more person was arrested in Beaver Dam.

Those arrested were previously convicted of crimes including armed robbery, drug possession and domestic abuse, Montenegro said.

She added that six of those caught in the bust are "immigration fugitives."

"They were already before an immigration judge and ordered deported but failed to comply," Montenegro said.

But Montenegro was not able explain how the 20 convicted criminals arrested were able to remain the U.S.

She said some might have previously been sentenced to probation and escaped ICE's notice. The agency currently has a program that "automatically checks the biometric fingerprints of anyone who is arrested by local authorities and those fingerprints are checked against immigration databases," Montenegro said.

Prior to the program's creation, she said immigration agents would regularly check records at jails and prisons to search for illegal immigrants.

"Normally we would encounter the person and place a detainer on them while they're in local custody so that, once they come out of local custody, they get turned over to ICE," Montenegro said.

But people can slip through the cracks.

"There's always the possibility that we won't come across somebody," Montenegro said. "We conduct operations like this (weekend's) to track down individuals who we may not have previously encountered."

The arrested are now in ICE custody and being held at various county jails around the Midwest that the government agency has arrangements with.

"They will likely remain in ICE custody until we can make arrangements for their removal

or until they can be scheduled to have a hearing before a federal immigration judge," Montenegro said. Such hearings would take place at the federal, immigration court in Chicago.

But Montenegro was not able explain how the 20 convicted criminals arrested were able to remain the U.S.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) say officers arrested convicted criminals illegally living in the country during a two-day targeted operation in the Madison area.
 
The operation, which wrapped up Saturday, was conducted by the Enforcement and Removal Operations(ERO) Milwaukee Fugitive Operations Team.
 
The 20 criminals arrested have convictions on the following charges: armed robbery, felon possessing a firearm, drug possession, battery, domestic abuse, using a dangerous weapon, theft, manufacturing/delivering cocaine, and multiple violations for driving under the influence.
 
Six of the 20 are immigration fugitives with outstanding deportation orders. One other had been previously deported but illegally re-entered the U-S, a felony that carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
 
"Convicted criminals and egregious immigration violators are among ICE's highest enforcement priorities," said Ricardo Wong, the field office director for ERO Chicago who oversees operations in Wisconsin. "By targeting our efforts on these egregious offenders, we are improving public safety while making the best use of our resources."
 
Seventeen men and three women were arrested. Fifteen were from Mexico, two from Honduras and one each from Argentina, Laos and Peru.
 
The majority of the arrests were made in Madison, with four in Jefferson, two in Watertown and one in Beaver Dam.
 
Gail Montenegro, a spokesperson for ICE, said information about where the arrests occurred is classified.
 
Montenegro said the weekend raid was part of an "ongoing" effort to remove illegal immigrants with criminal convictions from the United States.
 
She said a similar bust happened in the Madison area in December, 2012, when 17 people were arrested in a span of three days.  
 
Montenegro said those arrested are currently in ICE custody while awaiting deportation proceedings to begin. ICE has agreements with county jails around the Midwest where illegal immigrants arrested can be held.
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