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Fugitives are Target But Other Illegal Immigrants Arrested, Too

Audio

Aired 8/20/09

The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says agents will continue to make so-called "collateral" arrests of illegal immigrants they come across as they search for others who've ignored deportation orders.

The national head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says agents will continue to make so-called "collateral" arrests of illegal immigrants they come across as they search for others who've ignored deportation orders.

John Morton, who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), recently announced agents will no longer have quotas in a program to go after illegal immigrants who've committed crimes or been ordered deported but remain in the U.S.

Since 2003, ICE teams have fanned out across the country to find and deport such immigrants. During pre-dawn sweeps, agents would often arrest all illegal immigrants at a home, even if the person on their list was not there.

Morton says he's ended the quota and plans further changes for the program. "We will enforce the law if we come across people in the pursuit of our duties who are not here lawfully. But that's not going to be the focus or the priority of the program. Its called fugitive operations and that's the focus."

A recent report by an immigration policy group shows just 27 percent of the people ICE fugitive teams arrested between 2003 and 2008 had criminal records.

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