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CHICAGO (CBS) – Dozens of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of serious crimes – or were otherwise considered fugitives or threats to national security – have been arrested in the Chicago area as part of a nationwide sweep that captured approximately 3,100 immigrants.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s “Operation Cross Check” sweep last week targeted immigrants with major criminal convictions or who were considered national security risks. Those arrested during the six-day nationwide operation had either entered the U.S. illegally, or violated the conditions of their legal residency.
More than 60 of those arrested were in the Chicago area.
In all, there were approximately 50 gang members and nearly 150 sex offenders arrested.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, more than 1,900 ICE agents were involved in the crackdown.
Ricardo Wong, the field director of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Chicago, said it the largest such sweep under the “Operation Cross Check” program since it began in 2009.
The people arrested hail from more than 100 countries. In most cases, they face jail time or deportation.
“They should abide by our laws and the punishment of our Constitution,” said Percy Leung, who came to the U.S. from China about 40 years ago, and is now a U.S. citizen.
Ingrid Yeo said she agrees that illegal immigrants who commit other crimes once they’re in the U.S. should be deported.
Wong said the local arrests will make a difference in Chicago.
“The biggest impact that these arrests will have on the streets is these criminal aliens that prey on society, prey on the community, we’re ensuring that they’re taken off the streets so they can’t reoffend,” he said.
The head of the Santo Toribio Romo Immigrant Center in Little Village said he understands why the government must kick out murderers, rapists and other serious criminals, but he said the slow pace of legal immigration can, at times, seem like a crime in itself.
“Oftentimes, the line might be a wait of 14 years, 15 years, 20 years,” he said. “I can’t imagine if I were a father here with a 1-year-old son in Mexico, and trying to bring him over, and having to wait 14 years to see him next. … There’s something quite not right with that.”
The two previous “Cross Check” sweeps resulted in a total of about 5,300 arrests – 2,400 during a sweep last May, and 2,900 during a sweep last September.