They no longer wander past El Amigo Dollar Plus, a store popular with immigrants on Columbia Road NW. They no longer troll for clients near Maria Diaz, who came to this country years ago from Guatemala and peddles mangos in the heart of Adams Morgan.
"They have eliminated them for the past two weeks. I don't see them at all," said R. Malik, who runs Malik's Warehouse, a jam-packed emporium of cheap clothes, blankets and luggage in the 1700 block of Columbia Road NW.
The fake-document vendors who have run a notorious open-air market in Adams Morgan have disappeared -- or at least faded from view -- after two dramatic busts by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The June 23 and June 30 raids marked the biggest crackdown in a year on a long-established market that had come under increasing scrutiny since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the actions probably haven't eliminated the illegal business, which provides fake identity documents to unauthorized immigrants.
"We like to think it's slowed down. I think it has," said Allan Doody, special agent in charge of the local ICE field office. But, he added, the trade would probably continue. "We will be watching the area very closely and following up."
Residents were startled June 23 when ICE, assisted by the FBI and local police, swept onto Columbia Road and began arresting alleged document vendors.
At the same time, agents raided a house in the 4400 block of Ninth Street NW and seized 2,076 fake documents -- permanent residency cards, Social Security cards and employment permits -- as well as equipment to make IDs.
Eighteen illegal immigrants were arrested in the raids: one Honduran, one Guatemalan and 16 Mexicans, according to an ICE statement.
A week later, agents arrested three more Mexicans in a house in the 4000 block of 13th Street NW. The agents found 569 phony documents, as well as equipment for making counterfeit documents, in the residence.
"It was a substantial ring that was providing these fraudulent documents," said Doody, referring to the two operations.
The raids were the latest actions in Operation Card Shark, which has attempted to dismantle the fake-ID operations in Adams Morgan. Since May 2002, it has smashed three document rings, but at least one has managed to persist.
Officials and immigration experts say the trade is difficult to eliminate because of the ease of falsifying official documents, the relatively light punishments for many vendors and the strong demand for the bogus documents from illegal immigrants who need them to work.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), whose ward includes Adams Morgan, also noted that there is a plethora of young immigrants willing to become vendors.
"The resource is so expendable," he said. When vendors are detained, many are removed from the country, he noted: "But for every one that's arrested and deported, there's a line of 10" waiting to take his place.
Graham praised the recent raids. But he said a more sustained effort is needed, both by federal and local law-enforcement, if the illegal business is to be eliminated.