Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the end of a six week long, nationwide, transnational gang enforcement surge. The focus of the operation, eerily named "Project New Dawn," was to target gang members involved in drug, weapon, or human trafficking, as well as those implicated in murder and racketeering investigations.
The operation is being hailed as a success: 1,095 confirmed gang members were arrested in the sweep. Of the 1,378 people taken into custody, 933 were U.S. citizens, and 445 were foreign nationals from 21 different countries. Nearly 1,100 arrests were related to federal or state criminal charges, while just 280 were the result of violations of administrative immigration laws.
Nationwide Operation to Stop Nationwide Gangs
Though arrests were made elsewhere as well, "Project New Dawn" focused on four primary locations: Newark, New Jersey, Washington D.C., San Diego, California, and San Antonio, Texas. The operation began at the end of March, and was designed to target criminal street gangs. It was led by the Homeland Security Investigations unit of ICE, and worked in conjunction with several other law enforcement agencies.
Of the criminal arrests, 21 involved murder charges and seven involved rape/sexual assault charges. Additionally, there were nine unaccompanied minors that were arrested due to their gang affiliation, as well as three individuals who had previously been granted relief from deportation as minors.
What is the Extent of ICE's Authority?
The ICE anti-gang operation might leave some individuals wondering why Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is focusing on arresting U.S. citizen gang members. Under ICE's purview is the enforcement of laws prohibiting drug trafficking into or out of the U.S.. When U.S. gangs enterprise and cooperate with international gangs to import or export drugs, weapons, and even humans, ICE has authority to investigate, and arrest those involved within American borders. Additionally, many gangs are transnational, meaning that they operate in more than one country.
Beyond immigration, illegal imports and exports, and transnational gangs, ICE also has the authority to investigate a wide range of illegal activity surrounding the smuggling of nearly anything, as well as international corruption, espionage and fraud, border security, and terrorism.