Saturday, May 1, 2010

Big sweep across Southeast nabs 596 foreign criminals

ASSOCIATED PRESS • May 1, 2010 Federal agents arrested 596 immigrants with criminal records during a three-day immigration enforcement sweep across the Southeast, authorities announced Friday in what they described as their biggest operation yet. There were 29 arrests in Tennessee; including one in Antioch. On Wednesday, a fugitive operation team in Nashville arrested Jorge Umanzor, of El Salvador, at his home. Umanzor illegally entered the U.S. in 1997, police said. He is a convicted drug trafficker who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling cocaine in May 2006. The three-day sweep, dubbed Operation Cross Check by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, was the largest the agency has ever conducted targeting foreign nationals convicted of crimes. The convicted criminals have served their sentences and authorities will now work to deport them. "As a result of the operation, communities around the Southeast are safer than they were before," said Felicia Skinner, an ICE field director. The sting involved almost 400 federal and local law enforcement officers who sought out convicted criminals in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. Authorities say they didn't single out a specific nationality; those arrested came from at least 60 nations in Latin America, Asia, Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The immigrants will likely face immediate deportation or an immigration hearing, although at least 12 of those arrested may also be charged because of prior immigration arrest records. Those offenders could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of felony re-entry. The people nabbed in the sweeping sting had been convicted of a broad array of charges. Three of them were convicted murderers, 26 were sex offenders and more than 250 were convicted on drug charges. Authorities say many of them were in the country legally. Tennessean staff writer Nicole Young contributed to this report.

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