Agency Nabs Illegal Immigrants Across U.S.

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By ANDREW RYAN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 14, 2006; 4:04 PM

BOSTON -- A swarm of federal immigration agents sped silently, headlights off, down a Boston side street early Wednesday and surrounded an apartment house.

"Police! Policia! Police!" yelled Daniel Monico, a deportation officer, holding his badge to a window where someone had pulled back the curtain. "Open the door!"

Moments later, agents led a dazed-looking Jose Ferreira Da Silva, 35, out in handcuffs. The Brazilian had been arrested in 2002 and deported, but had slipped back into the country. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.

In a blitz that began May 26, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested nearly 2,100 illegal immigrants across the country. Officials said the raids are aimed at child molesters, gang members and other violent criminals, as well as people like Da Silva who sneaked back into the country after a judge threw them out.

The crackdown is called Operation Return to Sender.

"This sends a message," said Monico, standing outside the gray Victorian apartment where Da Silva had been hiding. "When we deport you, we're serious."

An Associated Press reporter and photographer accompanied a fugitive task force as it made Operation Return to Sender raids Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

The operation has caught more than 140 immigrants with convictions for sexual offenses against children; 367 known gang members, including street soldiers in the deadly Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13; and about 640 people who had already been deported once, immigration officials said. The numbers include more than 720 arrests in California alone.

More than 800 people arrested already have been deported.

"This is a massive operation," said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for immigration enforcement or ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. "We are watching the country's borders from the inside."

The government has conducted similar large-scale immigration sweeps from time to time. On April 20, agents rounded up 1,100 illegal immigrants in 40 cities.

In New England, officials said the Operation Return to Sender sweeps have caught more than 150 people, including 75 who had come back after being deported.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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