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Federal immigration agents arrested 1,970 alleged illegal immigrant gang members in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and four other counties in 2008, federal officials announced. Operation Community Shield is a nationwide anti-gang effort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Of those arrested, more than 850 were prosecuted on state or federal charges, including firearms violations and illegal re-entry to this country after deportation, ICE reported.
Others were foreign national gang members who were arrested on administrative immigration violations and placed in deportation proceedings. The program also screens illegal immigrants in custody for various offenses to determine if they are subject to deportation. The statistics also include San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
"These arrest statistics are further proof of ICE's major role in combating gang-related crime in Los Angeles," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of ICE's Los Angeles office.
"Our immigration and customs authorities are proving to be powerful weapons in this effort, and we'll continue working closely with local law enforcement to attack and dismantle the gangs that have terrorized our communities," Schoch said.
"Now, it's the gang members who have something to fear."
In November, police in Los Angeles arrested Wilmar "Smiley" Alberto, 30, a Salvadoran national with ties to a gang, who had been previously deported from the United States. Alberto was charged with re-entry after deportation, and is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, awaiting court proceedings. In October, Heriberto Ramos-Moreno, 41, a previously deported Mexican national, was turned over to ICE upon his release from the Orange county Jail, where he had been detained on charges of obstructing an officer.
Ramos is also being prosecuted for re-entry after deportation. The felony offense carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Operation Community Shield was launched in 2005 and has resulted in the arrests nationwide of more than 11,850 gang members and associates.