|By JAMES PRICHARD|
Associated Press Writer
GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan- Federal immigration officials have completed a five-day sweep of western Michigan, arresting 54 fugitive illegal immigrants who had disappeared after receiving deportation orders.
They also captured an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal history who had illegally re-entered the United States after being removed, officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.
The initiative, dubbed "Operation Return to Sender," started Sept. 8 and ended Wednesday. The agency focused its efforts within the triangle formed by Lansing, Grand Rapids and Battle Creek.
The sweep was part of an "interior immigration enforcement strategy" that is a component of a multiyear plan by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to secure the nation's borders and reduce illegal immigration.
The nationwide operation started in June and has resulted in the arrests of 2,179 illegal immigrants to date.
Those arrested range in age from 20 to 62 years. They are citizens of 13 countries: Burma, Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Turkey and Yugoslavia.
Among the 55 people arrested, 11 have criminal records for convictions ranging from breaking and entering to assault with the intent to do great bodily harm. Fifty-four of the 55 failed to comply with final orders of removal issued by federal immigration judges.
The other person taken into custody is a six-time criminal who previously was deported, said ICE spokesman Gregory Palmore. Re-entering the United States after having been deported is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.