By Michael Hill
He was off the radar. Or so he thought. A fugitive living freely and perhaps fearlessly until this morning when he strolled from a North Bergen apartment building into the dragnet of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE is withholding his name, but not why it targeted him. He came here illegally, was deported after terroristic threats and other convictions.
Kenneth Genalo, ICE assistant field officer director, said, “He has subsequently returned on an unknown date and time, likely through southern border. Since he has returned he has been re-arrested for the crimes of DUI and criminal trespass.”
ICE invited NJTV News on this roundup of so-called “criminal aliens” and others here legally, but now charged with crimes. Cases labeled Priority 1 — meaning threats to public safety — who must answer to an immigration judge or if deported once, like this man.
“If the case isn’t strong enough, what we’ll do is we’ll remove them within a week or two after that,” said Genalo.
Here’s what happened when ICE’s enforcement and removal officers went after another deportee who has come back into the country. Agents waited outside an address he had given after a recent drunk driving conviction and where a car that looked like his was parked.
“What address does that vehicle come back to?” asked Genalo.
A man comes and gets in the car.
“The car is moving,” Genalo said.
Another vehicle makes a K-turn. Minutes later ICE stops the car.
Genalo said, “So you were just making a U-turn, you weren’t going to see anyone in that area then?”
“Correct,” said the suspect.
Back at the house, agents enter the building, talk to the tenants and then check the perimeter for a potential escape.
“It happened earlier during the week. The guy tried to jump out the back window but we had officers there in the back and he basically jumped into our guys’ hands,” Genalo said.
Turns out, their target has given police a bogus address — where he used to live before his 2012 deportation. But all is not lost. At another location, officers develop a good lead to follow up.
Is it frustrating as someone on the front lines?
“It’s very frustrating and it’s also worrisome because it’s an officer’s safety issue for my staff because number one, we’re out there arresting them primarily the first time,” said Genalo. “It’s a business that’s been exploited by cartels and gangs and it’s a business that they’re making a lot of money off of, the different routes, and it’s nationals from all different countries.”
During the presidential campaign, there was a lot of talk about targeting “criminal aliens” and deporting them, people who shouldn’t be here in the United States as if it was a new concept.
Genalo said, “We do that already. It’s a regular part of our course of duties that we look for these people and try and arrest them so there’s no public safety threat to the local community.”
Before sunrise, ICE and other federal and state law enforcers collaborated to catch this Priority 1 man living here legally but convicted of robbery, drug possession and sale, and accused of being in a gang. He’ll go before an immigration judge to face deportation.
“We’re trying to remove, or at least arrest to have these people removed, from the United States. Those that are committing some heinous crimes in this country,” said Genalo.
ICE has been conducting these targeted operations for at least 10 years and it has led to the Obama administration deporting more men and women than any other presidential administration in history. In President Obama’s first six years, more than 2.4 million were deported. In the last six of the Bush administration, 1.7 million were deported.
ICE says this approach of targeting specific people and getting intelligence and help from other law enforcement agencies works well to get Priority 1 fugitives off the streets of New Jersey and America. If the next president wants a bigger operation then he’ll have to do something about the U.S.’s porous borders and commit a lot more money and men and women to enforce the law.