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Ride-along as ICE agents arrest criminal suspects illegally in US

CHICAGO, IL (NewsNation) — NewsNation got a rare inside look at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s elite squad of federal law enforcement officers who are responsible for sniffing out, tracking down and arresting fugitives and convicts who threaten America’s national security, public safety and border integrity.

For two days, NewsNation cameras were given the unique perspective of riding along with the team of officers to see the risks associated with these missions and the precision it takes to get the job done.

Alejandro Requena Jr., a native of Belize, was sentenced in 2010 to 30 years in prison for home invasion causing bodily injury in Lake County, Illinois. He served about half that sentence before being released earlier this year.

When Requena was released, ICE issued a detainer — a request to transfer him into federal custody for removal from the United States. But Illinois authorities didn’t honor it, ICE says.

So on a recent morning, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations team tracked Requena to the Chicago suburb of Villa Park. Officers surrounded his workplace before he left for the day.

For two weeks, police officers have been conducting surveillance on this specific target, monitoring his work schedule and daily habits.

Just after 4:30 p.m., Requena’s vehicle began moving.

“He’s moving,” an officer radioed. “Vehicle’s moving — here we go.”

Officers swarmed the truck. Requena’s wife was also in the vehicle, an unexpected wrinkle.

Behind the scenes with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This man, a native of Belize, was convicted for home invasion causing bodily injury in Illinois. ICE tracked him down, put him in custody and he’ll now go through immigration proceedings. We’ll show you everything from…

— Alex Caprariello (@alcaprari23) June 17, 2024

The arrest went smoothly. Requena and his wife were fully cooperative. Next, they’ll be transported to a long-term detention facility in Wisconsin to make their case before an immigration judge.

“Our goal as an agency is to protect the public,” said Ray Hernandez, assistant field office director for ICE’s Chicago office. “We’re not just going out there picking up any individuals trying to … make a better life for themselves.”

“We go after individuals that are here, have caused an issue, got into trouble with law enforcement, that are disrupting our society here as a whole,” he said.

The arrest was one of thousands conducted each year by Enforcement and Renewal Operations teams tasked with finding, detaining and deporting immigrants convicted of serious crimes or posing public safety threats.

Since 2021, annual arrests have climbed. Preliminary figures show more than 170,000 across the U.S. last year alone. Top cities for arrests include Dallas, Houston, Newark, New Orleans, Miami, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Antonio.

The immigration issue is complicated by laws like Illinois’ Trust Act and Way Forward Act, which ICE says prohibit local officials from honoring federal detainers, alerting ICE about releasees.

ICE says many of those it targets could have been deported much sooner had detainers been honored by local and state law enforcement.

As border crossings surge, ICE’s efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants living illegally in the country — particularly those convicted of serious crimes — have become increasingly important, the agency argues.

“There’s always a level of adrenaline that starts pumping when you get into these situations,” Hernandez said, “especially when you’re dealing with an individual who has a violent history or are convicted of violent crimes.”