April 2, 2012 / 5:25 PM / in 6 years

Agents arrest more than 3,000 criminal immigrants in sweep

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Agents arrested 3,168 people in the biggest sweep of an operation targeting criminal and fugitive immigrants for deportation, immigration officials said on Monday.

The roundup last week was the third “Cross Check” sweep since May 2011. It brought to more than 10,000 the number of foreign lawbreakers or repeat immigration offenders arrested in national and regional operations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton said.

“These are people we do not want roaming our streets,” he said at a news conference.

The arrests are part of a U.S. focus on deporting criminals or repeat immigration offenders rather than low-priority illegal immigrants.

The totals from last week’s sweep came as President Barack Obama met Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House.

Mexico is the top source country for the 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, said last week.

Morton said those arrested included almost 1,500 people with felony convictions, including murder, manslaughter, attempted murder and kidnapping.

Arrests were made in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, three territories and the District of Columbia, he said. The operation was carried out by ICE agents and other law enforcement agencies.

Sweeps carried out in May and September 2011 resulted in 2,442 and 2,901 arrests, respectively.

The U.S. government is reviewing some 300,000 immigration cases to concentrate on high-priority individuals. The review should be completed by the end of the year, Morton said.

About 400,000 people are deported a year. About half of them are criminals, a number that is up 89 percent in three fiscal years, he said.

Thomas Homan, head of ICE’s removal operations, said the agency’s goal was to break the 2011 record of 216,000 criminals or repeat immigration offenders deported.

Reporting By Ian Simpson

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