PHILADELPHIA – Federal agents swept through Pennsylvania and Delaware over the past five days and arrested more than 115 illegal immigrants from 29 countries as part of nationwide crackdown on those living here in defiance of the law, authorities said Wednesday.
At least a dozen had criminal convictions — some for weapons and sex offenses — while others had overstayed visas or had no documentation at all. Also caught was a family of four from Albania whose asylum requests had been denied.
In all cases, the immigrants had broken the law by not obeying deportation orders issued by U.S. judges, said Thomas Decker, field office director for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
"These are individuals who have had their day in court," Decker said.
Since Friday, agents have arrested 55 illegal immigrants in the Philadelphia area; 26 in Reading, Allentown, Lancaster and Chambersburg; 22 in the Pittsburgh area; three in Allenwood, near Williamsport; and nine in northern Delaware.
The arrests were part of a four-month-old nationwide operation to catch illegal immigrants, federal officials said.
The latest arrest in the blitz came Wednesday morning, when authorities caught David Dominguez-Navarro, an El Salvadoran convicted of burglary, larceny, criminal trespass, weapons violations, narcotics violations and illegally re-entering the country after deportation.
Those arrested are in various stages of the removal process. Some will be deported immediately, while others will await the outcome of further immigration proceedings.
The crackdown comes as many local governments across the country, frustrated by what they see as federal inaction, have begun enacting their own laws to penalize companies who hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them.
On Tuesday morning, an Associated Press reporter accompanied a group of ICE agents as they targeted six illegal immigrants living in the Philadelphia area.
Wearing bulletproof vests, the team rousted the first target, a 22-year-old Albanian, from his bed at an apartment in Devon around 5:30 a.m. In the process, authorities discovered and arrested his mother, father and brother as alleged immigration law violators.
Other targets were more difficult to locate. One man was not at either home address authorities had, and agents also could not find him at a hair salon where he worked.
A search for a third illegal immigrant at a Philadelphia apartment turned up empty, but agents instead found and arrested a man from Guinea who had overstayed his visa.
The Philadelphia agents comprise one of 52 teams expected to be in place by the end of the year. Next year's federal budget calls for funding a total of 70, said Marc Raimondi, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE.
In the past year, the Philadelphia office has arrested more than 700 illegal immigrants, 165 of whom had criminal records.
Since ICE's creation in 2003, agents across the country have arrested 57,378 illegals, more than 40 percent of whom had criminal records, Raimondi said.