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Suspected illegals rounded up in Pa.

May 01, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were in Franklin County three times in recent weeks, rounding up 40 to 50 suspected illegal aliens with criminal records, according to Franklin County Chief Probation Officer Richard Mertz.

The most recent was April 23 when 15 to 20 people were taken into custody by ICE officials, Mertz said last week. The Probation Department assisted ICE, along with Chambersburg, Waynesboro (Pa.) and Washington Township police, he said.

That roundup was part of Operation Clean Streets, a nationwide enforcement effort targeting suspected illegals convicted of driving under the influence, Mertz said.

Some of those taken in that operation were in Franklin County Prison, he said. ICE will not remove a person from jail until their court case is resolved, he said.

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Two other operations since late March were aimed at illegal aliens with probation or parole violations, said Mertz.

"I think they came for 10 or 12 and they ended up leaving with 16 because of peripherals," Mertz said of the first enforcement effort. "Peripherals," he said, were people discovered to be in violation while officers were looking for named individuals.

A second sweep, also aimed at parole and probation violators, took in about a dozen more people, Mertz said. Similar operations have taken place in other Pennsylvania counties, he said.

ICE had asked the Probation Department for people under supervision who were believed to be in the country illegally, Mertz said. The agency then checked that information against its records, he said.

"A number of them already had warrants through ICE for failure to show up in court" for immigration hearings, Mertz said. That can result in immediate deportation when they are apprehended, he said.

"When they go to jail and we feel reasonably certain they are here illegally, we send that information to ICE," Mertz said.

Most of the people taken into custody during the operations were Hispanic and most were found at their homes, Mertz said. Most lived in the Chambersburg area, he said.

The agency often does not comment on ongoing investigations, ICE spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs said last week when asked for information about operations in the county.

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