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A five-week operation led to the arrest of 1,133 people, including more than 900 suspected members of multinational organized criminal gangs, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Monday.
The operation, nicknamed Project Shadowfire, was carried out between Feb. 15 and March 21 by ICE in conjunction with a number of state and local law enforcement agencies.
Most of the arrests were made in Los Angeles, San Francisco, El Paso, Houston, Atlanta and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“What we are seeing is that the gangs are becoming a little bit more organized as gang members enter the United States, whether it’s legally or illegally, and they're doing a wide variety of recruiting,” said Peter Edge, from Homeland Security Investigations, to ABC News.
“Our hope that these criminal gang members will be processed through the judicial system, and that we will be ultimately able to deport those who are not citizens of this country,” he added.
Also seized were 150 guns, more than 20 kilos of narcotics and around $70,000 in cash.
In a statement, ICE said most of those arrested were U.S. citizens, but there were also 239 foreign nationals taken into custody from Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe.
One thousand and one of them were charged with criminal offenses, and 132 were arrested for immigration violations, with 915 of those arrested believed to be members or associates of MS-13, Sureños (“Southerners”), Norteños (“Northerners”), Bloods and other prison-based gangs.
“This operation is the latest example of ICE’s ongoing efforts,” ICE director Sarah R. Saldaña said in the statement, “to target violent gang members and their associates, to eradicate the violence they inflict upon our communities and to stop the cash flow to transnational organized crime groups operating overseas.”