Fugitive Operations Team

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Phoenix and six other cities have added a Fugitive Operations team to locate and arrest undocumented immigrants who fail to comply with court orders to leave the United States. Cory Ray, the deportation officer in charge of the new Fugitive Operations Team in Arizona talks to HORIZONTE about the team’s priority.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening. I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to Horizonte.

José Cárdenas:
The federal government is adding more resources to the valley to fight illegal immigration. We'll tell you about their plan to find and arrest undocumented immigrants and the impact of proposition 200 on voting. The results of data collected from recent elections this year may surprise you.

José Cárdenas:
Also, we'll introduce you to the new police chief for the city of Mesa . All this coming up next on Horizonte.

José Cárdenas:
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement known as ICE announced that Phoenix and six other cities recently received new fugitive operations teams to locate and arrest undocumented immigrants who have been ordered by the court to leave the country but have failed to comply. This strategy is part of the secure border initiative, which is the department of homeland security's comprehensive, multi-year plan to secure America 's borders. Joining us to talk more about the fugitive team operation is Cory Ray. Ray is the deportation officer in charge of the new fugitive operations team in Arizona . Welcome.

Cory Ray:
Thank you.

José Cárdenas:
As that last bit clarified, we're not talking about going out and rounding up everybody who's not here with the proper documentation. This is for focused operation as I understand it?

Cory Ray:
That's right. This is a targeted enforcement. Specific targets are identified and located.

José Cárdenas:
The program has been underway since when?

Cory Ray:
Officially it's been underway since 2003. Although before ice became ice the deportation section would always go out and try to locate the individuals who are under final orders of removal.

José Cárdenas:
These are people who have gone through the system, they've had a final determination by the immigration courts and there's an appeal, final decision that they are now deportable. Am I right?

Cory Ray:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
The big news was the addition of more cities to the program and Phoenix being one of them. How did that come about?

Cory Ray:
I would imagine that decisions were made at the headquarters' level to identify cities that needed the teams. Phoenix was one of them. The team was established and we became fully operational this past June.

José Cárdenas:
We talk about the need. What is the need in Phoenix ? What kind of statistics are we talking about?

Cory Ray:
In Phoenix we identified--first of all Phoenix includes the entire state of Arizona . Our area of responsibility for my team is the entire state of Arizona . In Arizona we have roughly about 6,000 plus fugitives that have been identified in the state of Arizona .

José Cárdenas:
Exactly how will the team function? What's the make up of the team? How does it work?

Cory Ray:
The team is made up of four experienced deportation officers. One supervisor, one deportation assistant and one immigration enforcement agent so seven total to the team. The cases are prioritized.

José Cárdenas:
Now the arrests to date you've been in operation I guess officially for a month. I understand you've been here longer than that, you, yourself.

Cory Ray:
Right. I've been on the job in this capacity since October of last year. Since then we have been going person by person. We didn't get our last person until this past June. Since I came on board in October we picked up 300. Of that number 180, 185 were identified as criminal aliens.

José Cárdenas:
These are people that committed other crimes in addition to being in this country unlawfully?

Cory Ray:
That's right. Individuals who have been ordered to be removed and criminal records.

José Cárdenas:
What kind of records are we talking about?

Cory Ray:
All kinds. We've arrested people from crimes from things relating to dui, property crimes, crimes against persons and all the way up to attempted murder.

José Cárdenas:
In terms of people arrested to date, is there any particular profile or is it varied?

Cory Ray:
Its varied. It's all over the place. The spectrum is very wide on the individuals that are targeted.

José Cárdenas:
Can you give us some examples?

Cory Ray:
We've arrested people from Canada , of course Mexico . We've had individuals from the Philippines , Thailand , I believe, Korea , countries in Europe and Asia as well. It's very wide, widespread.

José Cárdenas:
In terms of the actual execution of an operation, how does that come about? You get the information that there's a warrant and you seek an individual?

Cory Ray:
Correct. What happens is normally an individual is issued a demand to appear for the enforcement of the order and they fail to appear. The case is referred to us to locate and apprehend the individual.

José Cárdenas:
How much investigative work is involved? Is it relatively simple to identify them?

Cory Ray:
Sometimes it's simple. Other times it's difficult. It depends on the history of the individual.

José Cárdenas:
There's some concern in the Hispanic community that what we have here is a special group that's going to go out and nab people whom they believe to be here without the proper documentation. What's your response to that?

Cory Ray:
We don't do blanket raids or whatever you want to call it, whatever words you want to use to call it. Our efforts are strictly target enforcement. We have specific individuals that we are targeting. These individuals have already gone through the immigration enforcement system and gone through the judicial process within the immigration system. They have had a day in court and a judge ordered them removed. Some of the individuals have appealed the decision some as far as the 9th circuit court of appeals. The decisions that have been upheld have been returned to me, and we've been instructed to go find the individuals and enforce the orders.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand it, typically they have been given a period of time to leave voluntarily, can you explain that?

Cory Ray:
In some cases the judge will issue an order of voluntarily departure in lieu of deportation or removal. Those individuals are given a certain period of time to depart the United States without having to depart under a final order of removal. This affords them an opportunity to return legally to the United States without having to obtain different types of waivers. An individual who departs the United States under a final order of removal, in order for them to come back, they have to get permission from our government to do so. If they don't get permission to come back and come back, that's a felony, and a crime punishable by imprisonment.

José Cárdenas:
We have 30 seconds left. Can you tell us what role local law enforcement plays in conjunction with your efforts?

Cory Ray:
Local law enforcement helps with officer safety issues and is the nexus for information. Law enforcement comes in contact with people on a regular basis for various reasons. During the contact, they run them through NCIC and some individuals are listed through them, and they'll be instructed by our people to go ahead and arrest the individual. We'll put a detainer on him and go ahead and pick him up.

José Cárdenas:
Agent ray of immigrations custom enforcement. Thank you for joining us.

José Cárdenas:
Glad to be here.

José Cárdenas:
The local elections held in March and may of this year were the first test of the new voter identification requirements for proposition 200 in Maricopa county. It required voters to present valid identification with a name, address and picture or two different forms of ID having the voter's name and address. Voters without sufficient ID were given provisional ballots and then may have been asked to return with valid ID to have their ballot counted. The Maricopa county elections department compiled data looking at the impact of prop 200 based on the march and may elections this year. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to them about the information collected from the past two elections with Maricopa county recorder, Helen Purcell. We'll look at specific numbers in just a moment. Before we get to that, tell us how the data of collected.

Helen Purcell:
We decided after--with both the March and May elections we wanted to know what was going to come up in September and November. We wanted to be sure we were prepared and gathered information from the ballots cast and conditionals and gathered information from registration roles trying to set up what people didn't have--the proper ID--who needed to come back to the polls and in fact did they.

José Cárdenas:
This was specifically intended as an attempt to measure the impact of prop 200?

Helen Purcell:
Absolutely.

José Cárdenas:
You haven't done this kind of post-preliminary analysis in the past?

Helen Purcell:
No. We always do an analysis on how many people went to the polls but not to this extent because we knew the impact would be there.

José Cárdenas:
We have the numbers to look at. Total ballot cast in March 108,000 plus. For provision of ballots 180,060. May of 2000, 109. Numbers failing to return in Election Day in march 86%, and in may 96%. Those are high percentages. Did that surprise you?

Helen Purcell:
They are staggering figures. Yes, it did surprise me.

José Cárdenas:
To what do you attribute that?

Helen Purcell:
We don't determine why people don't come back. It could be that the races weren't that close and they felt, well, I voted but my vote is not quite that important so I don't have to go back because there's nothing that's going to be decided by my vote.

José Cárdenas:
What's the process? As I understand it, they can go back to where they voted but they also had additional time period to go to some other location, too.

Helen Purcell:
Correct. A number of them did go back to the polls that day and present a proper identification. Let's say the couple goes to the polls and the husband is driving and the wife doesn't take the driver's license with her. There's the opportunity for her to not have the proper ID. Some of those did come back later on in Election Day. The ones that didn't--

José Cárdenas:
The ones that didn't, what other operations did they have if they didn't come back on Election Day?

Helen Purcell:
They had three days to return to a number of places throughout the county. All the city clerks were prepared to accept those identifications. We had our three offices. We had 27 other places for them to go through.

José Cárdenas:
Do they get a list? When they show up to cast the provisional ballot, do they get the instructions where to go?

Helen Purcell:
Yes, these are the places to return to. We want to make sure they have the ability and knowledge to go back. We are supposed to be in the--I think we are in the business of voter participation. Yes, I want to get them registered, but I want them to participate.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about the composition of the high percentages. Who was it that didn't come back to vote?

Helen Purcell:
The majority of ones that didn't back were women over 65.

José Cárdenas:
Was that a surprise?

Helen Purcell:
Yes.

José Cárdenas:
What about with respect to minorities?

Helen Purcell:
Very small percentage, very small percentage of the conditional provisionals.

José Cárdenas:
How did you make the determination as to what the breakdown was?

Helen Purcell:
We go in our file and look for those that we see are conditional provisionals and we can also determine from the file the age so we know those that in what category they are in that are set to come back if in fact they do.

José Cárdenas:
Now I would think that this would be particularly surprising not a high percentage but the people who vote in these non-major election cycle and primaries and so forth are typically high efficacy voters.

Helen Purcell:
Absolutely.

José Cárdenas:
That age group women over 65 in particular are high efficacy voters.

Helen Purcell:
Yes, they are.

José Cárdenas:
In they come back they aren't coming back?

Helen Purcell:
That's right. If these are your high efficacy voters that are not coming back in the city and school election we're looking at the primary and general election where we elect all the state offices. Are the same group of people, a, going to come to the polls at all? Because they came and didn't return in March and May? I'm afraid of what it will do to our voter turnout.

José Cárdenas:
One of your suspicious is the reason they didn't come back they figured it's a close election, why bother especially if they didn't go back the day of?

Helen Purcell:
That's right.

José Cárdenas:
Are you able to announce election results before that statutory time period has passed?

Helen Purcell:
We can announce some preliminary results and I can't do permanent results and a number of things we can't count until we know in fact those people have had an opportunity to come back. That will delay.

José Cárdenas:
Do the provisional ballots get counted if it determines it's not enough to make a difference in the election?

Helen Purcell:
Oh, yes, all ballots get counted.

José Cárdenas:
People shouldn't have the idea that it doesn't count.

Helen Purcell:
We have the ability to count. Whether or not the race is close we don't determine that. We don't care about that. We want to make sure the ballots are counted if in fact they should be.

José Cárdenas:
One of your concerns is for the general election the numbers that anticipate in this trend holds and something isn't done about it, how many people do you think will not vote? Will vote provisionally and not come back with the voter ID?

Helen Purcell:
We are in projections looking in the Maricopa County with 6,000 voters. That's a projection. They have various places and more of the places for general election to come back.

José Cárdenas:
Again election is five-day period to do it?

Helen Purcell:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
If those people don't come back, that could seriously impact an election?

Helen Purcell:
Absolutely. I think we're anticipating a number of close races in the general.

José Cárdenas:
I don't know if you all checked to see what the party registration was of those who didn't come back.

Helen Purcell:
No, we didn't. The March and May elections were non-partisan elections.

José Cárdenas:
You wouldn't have had the opportunity?

Helen Purcell:
No.

José Cárdenas:
One of the concerns that was raised before was whether this would have an impact on minority voting. You didn't see an impact on that?

Helen Purcell:
I didn't see that, no.

José Cárdenas:
Did you get any trouble problems reported from the precincts on Election Day?

Helen Purcell:
Probably a little bit more than normal. We have trouble shooters out in the precincts. Any time a problem arises we make sure one of trouble shooters get to the precinct and solves the problem. If someone thought they presented the proper identification and it wasn't accepted at the polls, we want to make sure we correct that problem. We didn't hear of any widespread problems across the county.

José Cárdenas:
There are people complaining and we had a lawsuit filed last week I believe challenging the implementation of prop 200 and asking for specific relief. Fill us in on this.

Helen Purcell:
They are asking for relief on a federal form. We have been instructed that we cannot accept the federal registration form if it does not contain the proper citizenship designation or proof of citizenship. There is at the present time a case being decided whether or not there should be a temporary restraining order issued to the secretary of state office who would tell us whether or not we could in fact accept the forms. In the meantime we have only had one federal form.

José Cárdenas:
In the March/May election it would have been an issue with one person?

Helen Purcell:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
Perhaps this may not impact anything? The result of the litigation.

Helen Purcell:
It may not.

José Cárdenas:
Okay, last question. What are you doing to deal with this problem and make people aware of the need to come back and vote?

Helen Purcell:
As we did prior to the March election, we will have as much pub bliss city out there trying to educate the voters on what they need to take with them when they go to the polls and step it tremendously before the September and November elections. It's very important that we inform the voter what they need to do. We will send them a couple of forms they can use. If they don't have the proper picture ID, we will send them a new voter registration card. They will be able to take that with them. We'll also 10 days before the election send them a bright yellow card that's going to have what they need to bring with them and also show their polling place and a map to the polling place. If they just take those two pieces with them, then they will have the proper identification.

José Cárdenas:
There won't be a need for a provision?

Helen Purcell:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
Thank you for joining us.

Helen Purcell:
You're welcome.

José Cárdenas:
Last week, the city of Mesa officially welcomed its new police chief. Chief George Gascón, a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles police department, was most recently assistant police chief with that department. Gascón replaces former Chief Dennis Donna who retired in January. With us now is the new Mesa police Chief George Gascón. Chief welcome and welcome to Arizona .

George Gascón.:
Thank you very much.

José Cárdenas:
In newspaper articles describing the welcome that we are referring to said it was almost Hollywood more than what you would normally associate with Mesa . Were you surprised with the warmth of the reception?

George Gascón:
I was. I was pleasantly surprised. I have been made to feel very welcome since the very beginning but the reception was beyond what I expected. It was extremely well attended by community members, by members of the police department. I was made to feel very much part of this community already and I really appreciate it. I'm very excited.

José Cárdenas:
I think part of the depth in response and enthusiasm is because you are pretty highly sought after over the years by different cities. What made you choose Mesa ?

George Gascón:
When the opportunity came and I've had other opportunities and frankly I was very happy in LA not like I was out there looking for work. The opportunity came and I started to research Mesa , looked at the police department, looked at the community in general, looked at the infrastructures that is there and saw the difficulties that they are facing today and also saw a number of opportunities. It's a great police department and very good work force, well-educated, motivated. There's a lack of focus today, if you will, and challenges coming up with budgetary constraints and I basically saw a great opportunity to begin to work not only making a positive impact in Mesa through policing and public safety but also working towards development of new policing models that will be more effective. The realities that populations will continue to grow. Policing budgets are not going to grow proportionally to the size of population and in policing we'll have to look for different models. I think Mesa presents a great opportunity to experiment and enhance the quality of policing services and do so much more efficiently.

José Cárdenas:
I want to talk a little bit about the models which I understand is based on some of the things you have done in LA. A little bit about your personal background.

George Gascón:
I have had 28 years with the L.A.P.D. and worked basically most every assignment, working gangs, working recruitment, working patrol. I spent a great deal of my time in assignments. Most of my career in LA was centered around the east and south part of city. Very active. I'm also a licensed attorney in the state of California . Practiced actually part time while I was a police officer. Most recently I was running operations with the L.A.P.D. which is roughly 70-75% of the department. We have 19 police stations, all sworn patrol officers, detectives, all special operations detectives, air support, all of them come under the office of operations, and I run them for two and a half years.

José Cárdenas:
I understand you, yourself, is an immigrant from this country?

George Gascón:
That's correct. I was 13-year-old from Cuba and raised there and went to college and got my undergraduate degree and went to the L.A.P.D. and been in LA my entire life since I was 13.

José Cárdenas:
I understand you received a lot of attention and praise for programs you implemented in Los Angeles that you intend to implement here.

George Gascón:
It's half of what it is in New York and Chicago . For instance, one of the things that I recognize that we have to come up with are different models and be more efficient. And part of what I did is put together a program based only on national statistics that talks about 10% of suspects committing 50 to 55% of crime. 10% of the victims accounting for the victimization and 10% of the locations coming from the sites of where 60% of the crime is coming from. I created three circles, people, places and activity and put them in the triangle. Where they intersected that's where I put the policing efforts. That dealt in tremendous amount of results. They were able to lower crime at a greater rate than any other cities in the country. Cities of 5,000 or more people.

José Cárdenas:
Let me ask you about this area and what you intend to do with Mesa . What is your view of the proper role of local law enforcement in terms of immigration enforcement?

George Gascón:
I think it will be important to put a little bit of context to this. When I was captain in the L.A.P.D., I was part of the board of inquirers that looked into a scandal that basically surrounded a small group of officers that became criminals. They started to act as criminals and were involved in narcotics activities and other illegal activities. One of the things as we review the management failures in this particular incidence is we noticed these officers were allowed to use immigration to intimidate and extort from people and prevent people from becoming witnesses to crimes and their own misconduct. Anytime they had a problem and thought someone would complain about them, they would pick them up and at the time it was INS . That experience in conjunction with other experiences I've had in my life and professional life as policing reinforced my idea in order for us to be effective in policing, we need the support of all the communities that are within the jurisdiction that we police. If you have a particular community that becomes fearful of reporting crimes or fearful of stepping up and being witnesses because of consequences they have in terms of deportation, what occurs is you have a break in policing and then our ability to deal with the crime that impacts everybody not only the community gets significantly smaller.

José Cárdenas:
Chief, there's so much more to talk about. I'm afraid we're out of time. Hopefully we'll get you back. Thank you for joining us and again welcome.

José Cárdenas:
If you would like to see transcripts or get information about upcoming topics, please visit our website at azpbs.org. Once you get to our home page, click on Horizonte for more details.

José Cárdenas:
That's our show for tonight. We hope to see you next Thursday. I'm José Cardenas. And for all of us here at Horizonte, have a good evening.

Cory Ray: Deportation officer, Fugitive Operations Team;

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