Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested more than 150 people nationwide in an operation that targeted illegal immigrants who had asked the courts for permission to self-deport rather than be forcibly removed, then failed to leave.
“During the past two weeks, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations located 154 aliens who received an order of voluntary departure but refused to leave the United States,” Senior Official Performing the Duties of ICE Director Tony Pham said during a press conference in McAllen, Texas, Thursday.
“You must keep your promise to the United States, and depart within the agreed-upon time frame. Anyone with a voluntary departure order who fails to depart will face imminent removal from the country. This is just the beginning of the operation.”
Operation Broken Promise focused on immigrants who legally entered the U.S., including on visas, and were found to have overstayed the amount of time the U.S. government permitted them to remain. In one of the 154 cases that ICE announced Thursday, an individual who was ordered to leave the U.S. in 1997 was still in the country 23 years later, Pham said. Of the 154 people arrested, 86% of them had criminal convictions.
Each person was previously found to have been in the country illegally and placed into immigration proceedings for removal, where a judge would have reviewed whether or not to recommend that ICE deport them. During that court hearing, the defendant can request the judge allow them to leave the country by a date no more than 120 days in the future. Pham said the upside of “voluntary departure” cases is that it costs U.S. taxpayers less to fly someone home. Read more…