ICE announces record number of criminal arrests in 2019 as some call for agency to be abolished

A graphic from ICE HSI highlighting record numbers of arrests and seizures in fiscal year 2019.

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says it made a record number of criminal arrests in fiscal year 2019. They included arrests for crimes such as financial crimes, bulk cash smuggling, cybercrimes, exploitation of children and child sex tourism, weapons smuggling and export enforcement, trade crimes such as commercial fraud and intellectual property theft, human smuggling and trafficking, narcotics smuggling and trafficking, identity and benefit fraud, human rights violations, transnational gang activity, counterterrorism and visa security.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations says they made 37,547 criminal arrests in FY 2019 and seized more than $775 million in assets. Under President Donald J. Trump, the agency has ramped up efforts to combat international crime on multiple fronts. This year’s arrest numbers represent an increase of nearly 10% from last year and nearly 15% from FY 2016 when Trump took office.

HSI arrested 5,750 criminals associated with human smuggling investigations in FY19, a 41 percent increase from FY18, due in part to the use of Rapid DNA testing technology to detect fraudulent families at the Southwest border. During FY19, over 400 HSI personnel deployed to the southern border to protect children from being smuggled into the United States through fraudulent family units, often tied to larger transnational criminal syndicates.

In FY19, HSI arrested 2,197 criminals associated with human trafficking, a 38 percent increase from FY18, as well as identified and/or assisted 428 victims of human trafficking in FY19, a 39 percent increase from the previous year. HSI uses a victim-centered approach in its trafficking investigations, where equal value is placed on both the identification and stabilization of victims and prosecution of the traffickers. HSI also developed the Strategic Trafficking Outreach Program (S.T.O.P.) to educate and raise awareness as well as how to report instances of suspected trafficking.

HSI saw a record-breaking year in narcotics enforcement by leveraging partnerships and using a variety of task forces, including its Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST). HSI seized more than 12,450 lbs. of opioids in FY19 – a record-breaking amount – exceeding FY18 seizures by more than 2,500 lbs. HSI also seized more than 3,600 lbs. of fentanyl and made more than 1,900 fentanyl-related arrests in FY19, which are both substantially higher than FY18 figures. HSI also seized more than 145,000 lbs. of methamphetamine in FY19.

Identity and benefit fraud pose a severe threat to national security. HSI leads 36 Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTF) across the country to combat this fraudulent activity. HSI made 2,198 arrests tied to identity and benefit fraud in FY19, a nearly 75 percent increase from FY18.

HSI also continued its fight against child predators and transnational gangs in FY19.  In FY19, HSI arrested 3,957 child predators as well as rescued or identified 1,069 victims.  HSI also made 3,886 criminal gang arrests, including 337 criminal arrests of MS-13 gang members during the same timeframe.

Among the noteworthy cases highlighted by ICE in their official statement were the conviction of Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, also known as Mexican drug cartel boss “El Chapo” and separately a seizure of 17 tons of cocaine.

The report also highlighted another seizure of 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than $700,000 in cash during a three-day takedown which resulted in 35 arrests.

The overall quantity of fentanyl seized by ICE HSI is more than enough to kill every man, woman and child in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In Maine, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made a string of high profile arrests through the spring, summer and fall under the leadership of Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens.

The agency has faced angry opposition from many politicians and left-wing groups across the nation, with calls for them to be abolished.

In Maine, a group called Mainers for Accountable Leadership has led rallies in Portland calling for ICE to be abolished and for a property management company to terminate their lease to Homeland Security in Portland.

The leader of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Marie Follayttar Smith, has also managed workshops around the state to train activists how to take actions to increase pressure to abolish ICE. Other left-wing groups in Maine, such as the Maine People’s Alliance, have amplified MFAL’s demands that ICE be abolished.

Mainers for Accountable Leadership is perhaps best known for their efforts to injure Senator Susan Collins’ re-election campaign, helping raise millions of dollars to oppose her and routinely protesting at the Senator’s offices.

Politicians who have called for ICE to be abolished include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Senator Elizabeth Warren, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Rep. Chellie Pingree has leveled withering criticism at the agency but stopped short of calling for ICE to be abolished.

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