Federal Agents Sweep Midstate For Undocumented Immigrants - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Federal Agents Sweep Midstate For Undocumented Immigrants

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LA VERGNE, Tenn. - Federal investigators believe Middle Tennessee has become a haven for hundreds of fugitives who are undocumented immigrants.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are dramatically increasing their efforts in the region.

For ICE agents, finding the fugitives can be a painstaking process.

"Essentially we ended up in a wrestling match," said Philip Miller, deputy field office director for ICE's Office of Detention and Removal Operations in New Orleans.

At one home, agents found their first suspect, but also caught two men who bolt out of the home.

"Says he's an El Salvadorian, but he has no documents to be in the U.S." Miller said.

A laptop computer is used to collect suspects' fingerprint during the raid. ICE agents use this technology every day, all over the country.

"It's not uncommon that we will go for one fugitive and end up with two or three," Miller said.

Agents also arrested a suspected MS-13 gang member. At the next stop, they also found their suspect whose wife came out of the home in tears.

"It's usually an extremely volatile and emotional situation when the wife comes out," he said.

The raids break up families, but ICE has options. 

"Frequently if we arrest someone who is the primary caregiver, we don't want to separate them from their children so we use an alternative to detention," he said.

One option is to monitor a suspect with a GPS monitoring device.

On the last stop, agents sought a convicted drug dealer.

"They know its Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and now it's going to be a question

if they'll speak to us," he said.

But the fugitive doesn't have to and ICE cannot enter the home.

"The reason for that is these are administrative warrants, not criminal warrants," he said.

Immigrant advocacy groups know this and have passed out pamphlets that instructing immigrants not to open their door or allow ICE to enter their homes if ICE appears at their door.

Agents didn't apprehend the suspected drug dealer when they arrested 24 fugitives and immigration violators.

The fugitive operations team covers a region that includes five states. ICE is working on bringing a team to Nashville to focus on this area. The agency also adding officers and agents because research shows there are many fugitives in the area.

In May, ICE agents arrested more than 3,400 fugitives all across the country.

To report suspicious activity, call the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE  or click here.

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