ICE seeks help from Mower County Jail
By Karen Colbenson
and Tim Ruzek
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has asked Mower County Jail officials for help on bigger operations, but were turned down due to the ongoing jail space issue, jail administrator Bob Roche said Friday.
According to Roche, the number of people recently arrested by ICE put a burden on the already crowded local jail by creating a temporary overflow of inmates at times on Wednesday and Thursday.
Individuals arrested by ICE had to be placed in the jail’s "conference rooms, the exercise room and the holding cell — you know, they were all full," Roche said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, 20 illegal immigrants were arrested during a two-day enforcement operation in Austin. ICE was looking for five specific individuals, but encountered 15 more.
Eight of the immigrants have convictions for various crimes, including drunken driving. Three of the immigrants have been convicted more than once for drunken driving.
Among those arrested were Gilberto Alejo-Ubaldo, 20; Fausto Cesar Alvarado-Sagastume, 36; and Ignacio Cruz Maldonado, 25.
Ubaldo, who had been deported previously, is a citizen of Mexico and has two convictions of drunken driving, one count of aggravated forgery, one count of driving without a license, one count of indecent exposure and interference with privacy/surreptitious intrusion.
Alvarado-Sagastume, a citizen of Guatemala, has been deported three times, and was criminally convicted of re-entry after being deported in 1999 and was sentenced to 37 months in prison.
Maldonado, a citizen of Mexico, was convicted of identity theft in Iowa.
The illegal immigrants apprehended by agents with ICE each spent four to five hours in the downtown Austin jail before being transported out of the city, Roche said.
According to a release issued by ICE, the operation was part of an ongoing nationwide initiative focusing on arresting criminal aliens.
"ICE will continue to fulfill our congressional mandate to apprehend and deport those who entered our country illegally, especially those who have committed criminal acts," stated Scott Baniecke, a field office director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Bloomington, Minn.
"Our job is to help protect the public from those who commit crimes, and to protect the integrity of the nation’s legal immigration system," Baniecke stated.
On late Thursday afternoon, Tim Counts, a spokesman for the ICE agency in Bloomington, said the arrests were "nothing random."
"This is a targeted enforcement action," Counts said. "We’re looking for specific individuals."
As usual, however, agents encountered other undocumented immigrants and took them into custody as well, Counts said. This occurred in December when similar action took place in Austin, netting 21 alleged illegal immigrants over two days.