Entries in U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (4)


As One Immigration Enforcement Program Fades Away, Another Rises

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal program that allows certain local law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents will be scaled back at the end of this year, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The 287(g) immigration enforcement program authorizes local police to question individuals about immigration status and make related arrests. In the past, local jurisdictions interested in participating would enter into one of two types of agreements with ICE. There were task force agreements, which focused on street-level enforcement, and jail agreements. The street-level agreements expire on December 31 and will not be renewed by ICE.

The agency said in a December 21 statement that "other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases."

Immigrant rights advocates have opposed the 287(g) program since its inception in 1996, claiming that it encourages racial profiling and erodes trust between community members and police. Mary Giovagnoli, the director of the Immigration Policy Center, said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the end of the street-level enforcement agreements.

"Most everyone who monitors this believes that it's a start but it's not enough," she said.

Even as 287(g) is dialed back, the federal government has aggressively expanded another enforcement program since 2008, making this a kind of trade-off. The program, called Secure Communities, requires local police to cross-check the fingerprints of all arrestees against a federal database. Local police and jails are asked to hold suspected immigration violators for federal authorities.

The core complaints about 287(g) -- racial profiling and erosion of public trust -- have also been levied against Secure Communities, and the reach of the latter program is much broader.

Secure Communities is already implemented in 97 percent of jurisdictions across the country, while 287(g) is active in only 57 law enforcement agencies in 21 states, and will shrink to 40 agencies after the street-level agreements expire in 2013.

A major difference between the two is that Secure Communities does not authorize local police to inquire about immigration status or make an arrest on that basis. But once a person is arrested, regardless of the crime, that person's fingerprints are run against a federal immigration database.

That gives local police a kind of de facto power to enforce immigration laws, if only through the arrests they make.

"So they'll just arrest the person on whatever pretext they can find to get them into the jail," said Cecillia Wang, the director of the Immigrants' Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union. "And then the person has their immigration status checked."

Along with announcing the end of the street-level 287(g) agreements last week, ICE also spelled out specific guidelines for when local law enforcement should hold an individual for federal authorities.

The memo says that "relatively minor misdemeanors" should not result in a person being detained by local police for federal immigration authorities, and that enforcement should be focused on those with criminal convictions and repeat immigration offenders.

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that it prioritizes immigration enforcement, but some advocacy groups say that isn't the case.

A review of deportation statistics by the Immigration Policy Center showed that for the 2011 fiscal year, 55 percent of deportations were either of low-level criminal offenders (minor crimes resulting in sentences of less than one year), immigration violators or those with no criminal convictions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stolen Spanish Tapestry From 16th Century Found in Houston YORK) -- A 16th century tapestry, stolen from the Spanish government in 1979, has been found by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Stolen from a cathedral located in Roda de Isabena, Spain, the tapestry depicts the Virgin Mary holding her infant son, Jesus, and Saint Vincent of Saragossa. The painting was among a collection declared national monuments in 1924 by royal decree.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the tapestry resurfaced for sale at the Brussels Antiques and Fine Arts Fair in Brussels, Belgium, after having traveled from Spain to Milan. From Brussels, the painting was sold at auction for $369,000 to a business in Houston, Texas.

At that point, The Spanish Civil Guard’s Heritage Protection Group called upon the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents to help seize the historic piece of artwork, according to Richard Halverson, assistant special agent in charge at HSI in Houston.

“HSI understands the cultural and historical significance of protecting a country’s treasures,” said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston, in a press release. “Our special agents are at the forefront of the effort to identify and return these important items to their lawful owners in the same way we would want our global partners to return America’s artifacts in the event they were ever stolen.”

The tapestry was reclaimed by the HSI local initiative in Houston called “Hidden Relic,” but Halverson says tracking down the “illicit trafficking of cultural property is part of what HSI does as a whole.”

Asked whether the small boutique in Houston will be refunded the money it paid for the tapestry, Halverson replied, “I don’t know, that’s between them and the auction house.”

Halverson says HSI does not know how this artifact was brought into the United States or whether the gallery smuggled it in.

“They may have declared it not knowing it had been stolen,” he said.

It order to try to deter the smuggling of stolen cultural properties in and out of America, Halverson said HSI agents are conducting “outreach programs with local galleries and encouraging them to report anything they might find suspicious about a piece of art.”

As of now, the 16th century tapestry is being held in Houston, “under lock and key,” says Halverson. HSI will work with the Spanish government to ensure the artifact’s safe return home to its native country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NY Man Charged with Impersonating ICE Agent, Handcuffing Teen

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A Long Island, N.Y., man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of impersonating a federal agent and handcuffing a teen driver after a road rage incident.

On Sunday, 39-year-old insurance executive David Bradley turned on his emergency lights and pulled over a 19-year-old driver, according to Suffolk County police.  Clad in a bulletproof vest, Bradley identified himself as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, handcuffed the teen, Travis Melito, and then took him to his home, where he released him five minutes later, police said.

Police arrested him the next day, when Bradley went to a police precinct to file a complaint about the road rage incident.

Bradley, who is a father of two, faces charges of second-degree unlawful imprisonment and criminal impersonation.

Suffolk County district attorney spokesman Robert Clifford said prosecutors have eyewitness evidence that Bradley exited his vehicle, wearing a badge around his neck and carrying a handgun in his holster, and padded Melito down against his Mitsubishi before searching his car and driving him to his home in Port Jefferson Station.  When Bradley drove Melito back to his car and set him free, he told the teen, "This is your lucky day," Clifford said.

The district attorney's investigation is ongoing, Clifford said.

Anthony LaPinta, Bradley's attorney, said his client denies the allegations.  There was a "confrontation" between Bradley and the teen driver, but Bradley did not handcuff him or impersonate law enforcement, LaPinta said.

"[Bradley] is a decent person, he's a family man, he's an accomplished businessman with no prior convictions," LaPinta said, adding that the teen was intentionally fabricating the story.

It was not Bradley's first time allegedly impersonating an ICE agent.  He is charged with second-degree criminal impersonation in a May 4 incident in which police said he attempted to enter a crime scene.

Bradley is being held on $150,000 bail and is set to be indicted this week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Services for Customs Agent Killed in Mexico Begin Monday

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) -- A visitation and rosary service will be held in Brownsville, Texas Monday for the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent that was killed by gunmen in Mexico last week.

Special Agent Jaime Zapata and another agent were driving between Mexico City and Monterrey on Feb. 15 when they were attacked by ten gunmen, leaving Zapata fatally wounded and the other agent with injuries to the arm and leg, according to U.S. officials.

According to The Brownsville Herald, the viewing and rosary service for Zapata will be held at the Brownsville Events Center.  His funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday morning at the same location, followed by a procession to the Rose Lawn Memorial Gardens in Brownsville, where Zapata will be buried.

The agent's viewing, rosary service, and funeral Mass will be open to the public.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio