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Vincentians warned about US ‘sting operation’ against illegals

Vincentians warned about US ‘sting operation’ against illegals


by Nelson A. King in New York 01.FEB.08

New York Consul General Cosmus Cozier has warned Vincentians in the United States about an immigration “sting” operation aimed at deporting Caribbean and other nationals.{{more}}

Cozier told Searchlight last weekend that he has been receiving reports of an increasing number of Vincentian and other Caribbean nationals trapped in the operation.

“It has been brought to my attention that the Immigration authorities in New York have embarked on a ‘sting’ operation to catch illegal immigrants working upstate and also to apprehend persons crossing the border,” he said, referring to the border that the US shares with Canada.

“City buses traveling from upstate New York to Brooklyn and Manhattan are now being stopped by immigration authorities in the Buffalo and Schenectady areas, and passengers are being asked to produce identification and other documents to prove residency or other legal status,” he added.

“Failure to produce these documents is resulting in jail sentences and requests for deportation,” he continued.

Cozier said though he has been aware of the “sting” operation for the past three months, it has become more acute in recent times.

“Nationals are asked to have identification and other related documents when traveling by bus within the United States and to be aware of the consequences of being caught unawares,” he warned.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents said they have arrested over 35,000 illegal immigrants last year, including unauthorized workers and immigration fugitives.

They said the figures more than double the number in 2006, and that a record 276,912 immigrants were sent back to their home countries.

Immigration officials said about three-quarters of the estimated 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the US are from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Earlier this month, US authorities also said they will soon identify and deport a number of Caribbean and other immigrants serving time in prisons and jails.

Julie L. Myers, the country’s top federal immigration enforcement official, said efforts to speed up the deportation of over 200,00 jailed immigrants are part of a campaign by ICE to help federal and state prisons reduce the costs of housing immigrants.

Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security and head of the agency, said her agency, in 2007, brought formal immigration charges against 164,000 immigrants who are behind bars nationwide for crimes committed in the United States.

She said many of those immigrants are still in the US and are also slated for deportation this year.

In comparison, she said the agency identified, in the previous year, 64,000 immigrants behind bars, most of whom were deported.

Last year, the US Congress authorized US$200 million for programmes to deport immigrant criminals.

Under current US law, immigrants convicted of crimes are deported only after serving their sentences in this country.

Myers said foreigners behind bars include large numbers of immigrants who were legal residents, but lost their legal status as a result of being convicted of crimes.

Over the years, Caribbean governments have complained that the increased deportation of convicted felons, particularly from the United States, has contributed significantly to the spiraling crime wave in their respective countries.