As federal immigration authorities step up raids at work sites and homes, a Seattle Times reporter and photographer accompanied a team whose mission is to find and arrest immigrants who’ve been given final orders to leave the country. While bigger work-site raids grab large numbers of illegal immigrants and splashy headlines, raids at private homes go largely unnoticed. They happen almost daily, part of an aggressive nationwide effort to find and deport more than 600,000 immigrants for whom a judge has issued a final order of removal.
By day’s end, the fugitive team had located two of its three targets on that day’s list, and arrested and detained a total of seven illegal immigrants – all from Mexico. The team’s final target that day – a 38-year-old man who had been in the U.S. since 1989 – was on a flight back to the Mexican border by last Friday. Seattle’s fugitive-operations team, launched in April 2004, is one of 61 across the nation. In a weeklong operation ending last Friday, the ICE team arrested seven of its targets, along with 19 others who got caught along with them. Among the 26, six had criminal convictions. he fugitive teams use a range of resources to find fugitives – driver’s-license databases, credit-card purchases, property records.