32 illlegal immigrants arrested in ICE operation

ALBANY, Ga. -- Federal authorities have arrested 32 illegal immigrants in central and south Georgia who are accused of committing crimes or fled after a judge ordered them to leave the country.

During a four-day operation, which concluded Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 31 men and one woman in Houston, Peach, Bibb, Toombs, Thomas and Dougherty counties.

ICE spokesman Ivan Ortiz-Delgado said Tuesday that one male from Guatemala was arrested in Dougherty County but due to Department of Homeland Security privacy laws, his identity has been withheld.

Federal authorities said Monday that many of the illegal immigrants are subject to immediate removal since they have outstanding deportation orders or were previously deported. The rest will stay in custody until their criminal cases are completed, they get a hearing before an immigration judge or travel arrangements out of the country can be made.

Of those taken into custody, 13 were illegal aliens with prior criminal convictions. Four of the detainees returned to the United States illegally after being deported, and 15 were immigration fugitives who disobeyed a final order of deportation issued by an immigration judge.

A majority of the group is from Mexico or Central American countries.

However, two of the detainees are from China, and one is from India.

Ortiz-Delgado said many of the illegals had criminal histories that included prior arrests and convictions for DUIs, weapons violations, disorderly conduct, assault and re-entry to the U.S. after deportation.

"A top priority for the Atlanta field office is to locate and arrest criminal aliens and ultimately remove them from our country in a safe and humane manner," said Felicia Skinner, field office director for the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations in Atlanta.

The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia has accepted prosecution for the four aliens who re-entered the U.S. after being deported. If convicted, the illegals could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, said Ortiz-Delgado.

The ICE spokesperson said Houston County, with 20 illegal aliens, was where federal authorities arrested most of the illegal immigrants during the operation.

ICE fugitive operations teams made 30,787 arrests nationwide in the fiscal year that ended Aug. 20.

More than 89 percent of those arrests involved immigration fugitives and aliens with prior criminal convictions.