ICE Arrests 5,270 Illegal Alien Gang Members in Dozens of U.S. Cities in Two-Year Period

By Penny Starr | October 14, 2011 | 3:09 PM EDT

The city council of Hartford, Conn., has unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits police and city employees from asking people about their immigration status.

( – More than 5,000 individuals who were in the United States illegally and were affiliated with criminal gangs were arrested in 2009 and 2010, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), based on data provided by the Homeland  Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

The arrests were made through ICE’s Operation Community Shield, a program designed to crack down on gang activities in U.S. communities. Since its inception in 2005, ICE has arrested more than 8,000 gang members from more than 700 different gangs, according to the CIS.

CIS’s director of policy studies, Jessica Vaughan, recently moderated a panel discussion including nine sheriffs from across the country who spoke about how Mexican drug cartels and illegal alien gangs are impacting communities and the need for more resources to secure the nation’s border with Mexico.

Terry Johnson, sheriff of Alamance County, N.C., showed a photo of an illegal alien who had been executed in his jurisdiction. Johnson also showed a photo of a large quantity of weapons that had been found and seized by law enforcement from members of a Mexican drug cartel in a car obtained in his county.

“Law enforcement agencies are very concerned about these trends,” Vaughan told

Vaughan, who has been collecting and analyzing ICE statistics on foreign gangs in the United States since 2005, said those trends include gangs that are well-financed, resourced and organized. They are also aided by a porous border and policies that can keep law enforcement from identifying and arresting illegal alien gang members, including those working with drug cartels, according to Vaughan.

A map of the United States, which includes Alaska and Puerto Rico, was distributed at the event. It shows how widespread and numerous illegal alien gang operations are across the country, and the associated statistics reflect only those who were taken into ICE custody in 2009 and 2010.

The map is divided into four categories and color-coded to reflect the number of arrests of “non-citizen” gang members from zero to 110, 110 to 220, 220 to 330 and 330 to 440.

The largest concentration of arrests – those ranging from 330 to 440 – were in Los Angeles, Calif., northern Georgia and Milwaukee, Wis.

But the map shows that illegal alien gang members have been arrested in 2009 and 2010 in every single state and Puerto Rico with the exceptions of Vermont, North Dakota, West Virginia and Kentucky.

High concentrations of arrests (220 to 330) took place in towns and cities in California, Texas, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

In a 2008 report on illegal alien gang activity in the United States by Vaughan and Jon D. Feere, the summary lays out the threat these gangs pose to the country.

“Immigrant gangs are considered a unique public safety threat due to their members’ propensity for violence and their involvement in transnational crime,” the report states. “The latest national gang threat assessment noted that Hispanic gang membership has been growing, especially in the Northeast and the South, and that areas with new immigrant populations are especially vulnerable to gang activity.

“A large share of the immigrant gangsters in the most notorious gangs such, as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Surenos-13, and 18th Street are illegal aliens,” the report states. “Their illegal status means they are especially vulnerable to law enforcement, and local authorities should take advantage of the immigration tools available in order to disrupt criminal gang activity, remove gang members from American communities, and deter their return.”