Immigrants in county jails up 55% over 2007
The increase is credited to enforcement office program
By John Scheibe (Contact)
Saturday, November 8, 2008

Federal immigration authorities identified 1,965 undocumented immigrants incarcerated in Ventura County jails for other crimes in the year ending Sept. 30 — about 55 percent more than the previous year — according to statistics released this week.

The increase comes as the identification of undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles-area jails and prisons reached record levels in the 12-month period beginning Oct. 1, 2007, officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Los Angeles Office of Detention and Removal Operations announced this week.

Immigration authorities credited the increase to ICE's criminal alien program. The program focuses on identifying undocumented immigrants serving time for other crimes in federal, state and local jails before they are released. Officials say such identification enables them to get deportation orders as soon as the jail sentences are completed.

Jim Pilkington, an assistant field office representative with ICE's Los Angeles office, said the program cuts down on the cost and burden of finding undocumented immigrants after they've been released.

Nearly 20,000 undocumented immigrants with a criminal history in the United States were deported in the seven-county area covered by ICE's Los Angeles office in the past fiscal year, Pilkington said. The region includes Ventura County.

Pilkington said the majority of these immigrants committed serious crimes or felonies while here.

Nationwide, the number of undocumented immigrants with criminal histories charged by ICE while behind bars was more than 221,000 in the past fiscal year, more than three times as many as two years earlier, authorities said.

"Ensuring criminal aliens held in the nation's jails and prisons are targeted for removal rather than being released onto the streets is one of ICE's top priorities," authorities said in a media release this week.

ICE recently announced it will be placing a team of agents in Ventura County by year's end. Their focus will be to find and repatriate immigrants who have defied court orders to leave the country. ... ils-up-55/