Illegal re-entry cases on the rise in local court
Dustin Lemmon | Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009 10:00 pm

In the past two months, four new federal cases for illegal re-entry of deported immigrants have been filed in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, more than in any single year previously.

The charges are the result of investigations by a new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, office that opened in Rock Island last year. They focus on cases in which an illegal immigrant has committed a crime and gone through deportation only to be arrested again after re-entering the country.

While similar cases have been filed in local federal court in the past, they haven't been this frequent.

Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, said the re-entry cases are an area of increased focus for the department. ICE hopes the emphasis will serve as a deterrent to others who are deported. She said the crime is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

"We're targeting the offenders who have no respect for our country or its borders," she said. "Some of these individuals have crossed our borders multiple times."

Montenegro said the ICE office in Rock Island, which opened last September, has already added to its staff because of additional funding. She said it's an ICE policy not to release how many agents work there.

The Rock Island office is limited to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, Montenegro said. They will not investigate cases in Iowa, which is covered by an ICE office based in St. Paul, Minn.

"We only have jurisdiction over Illinois," she said.

Scott Harris, deputy chief for the Rock Island Police Department, said on one of the recent arrests ICE officers saw a Rock Island officer out on a traffic stop. They stopped to assist, and one of the ICE officers recognized the driver as a man he saw deported years earlier.

"When they first got here, they came to our roll calls and identified themselves and asked what we needed," Harris said of ICE. "That's one of those things that's been needed for a long time, and it's a good thing for the Quad-Cities."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Lang noted that much of ICE's work does not lead to criminal charges in federal court, but he said his office takes seriously the threat posed by criminal aliens who were convicted of previous crimes, deported and then re-entered the United States.

"As always, we consider cases of criminals who have previously been convicted and are illegally in the United States a priority, to make sure they don't commit future crimes," Lang said. ICE's "presence is in pursuit of that goal, and we will continue to work with them closely."

One of the recent cases ended last week without a prison sentence. Juan Antonio Briones-Espinosa, who pleaded guilty, was given time served and turned over to ICE for deportation.

Briones-Espinosa, 39, was arrested in May by the Rock Island Police Department Narcotics Unit after he was observed at a house in Rock Island and investigators learned he had been removed to Mexico in 2000, court records state.

Other cases pending in federal court include:

Jose Ayala-Avila, 30, was charged in May. He was also arrested by the Rock Island Police Department Narcotics Unit after it searched a house May 1 and found numerous counterfeit Lawful Permanent Resident cards and counterfeit Social Security cards in a single stack. The documents were in a room with a photo of Ayala-Avila, court records state.
According to court documents, Ayala-Avila was deported twice before. He had faced traffic citations and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of possession of a canceled or revoked ID card in Rock Island County prior to his latest arrest but after his earlier deportations.

Salvador Luis Ramos-Tapia, 39, was stopped by Moline police in May and was found to be an unlicensed driver. Police checked with ICE and found he was previously deported in 2003 and was convicted of felony cannabis possession in Chicago in 2001.
Jose Troche-Guzman, 33, was picked up by Rock Island police June 21 after a Rock Island police officer stopped a pickup with nine people inside. He had an outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended license.

ICE conducted a records check and found Troche-Guzman was previously deported in 2006. He was also convicted of criminal sexual assault in Rock Island County in 2004 and received probation. His deportation didn't come until later. ... 03286.html