As part of a five-week operation, led by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE,) over 1,100 suspects were arrested for criminal offenses, most of which are associated with gangs.
Centered in Los Angeles, the operation is dubbed Project Shadowfire and it is targeting gang members for their involvement in criminal activities including human smuggling, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, murder and racketeering.
Roughly 915 of the arrested were reported to be cross-border gang members affiliated with notorious groups like MS-13, the Nortenos, the Bloods, the Surenos, and other prison-based gangs.
Over 239 of the detained are immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, China, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, and others. Most of the arrests were made in areas with a high population of illegal immigrants, such as LA, San Juan, Atlanta, Houston, and El Paso.
Seized from the series of raids were a total of 150 firearms, 20 kg of narcotics, along with more than $70,000 in cash.
“This operation is the latest example of ICE’s ongoing efforts, begun more than a decade ago under Operation Community Shield, to target violent gang members and their associates, to eradicate the violence they inflict upon our communities and to stop the cash flow to transnational organized crime groups operating overseas,” said Sarah R. Saldaña, the ICE director.
Although the ICE has removed 1,100+ criminals off the street, gang expert Richard Valdemar is not sure that this will lead to much success. He argues that the individuals arrested are low-level members who don’t have much power in these criminal organizations. “The sweeps are like band aids, they look good on the 5 o’clock news but they have no effect on the actual gangs,” said Valdemar.
But, the real problem which Saldaña alluded to is that these groups are operating off US soil. These international crime groups continue to enter the country and commit crimes. Doing nation-wide sweeps only seems like a temporary solution, instead of buckling down on who is allowed to come into the country.