ICE

Murderers, Rapists, Kidnappers: Over 36,000 Criminal Illegal Immigrants Released In 2013

Nearly 200 murderers, over 400 rapists, and 300 kidnappers in the U.S. illegally were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while awaiting deportation proceedings, according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

A total of 36,007 criminal illegal immigrants that were being processed for deportation were freed in 2013. Together, they committed nearly 88,000 crimes, according to the report, published Monday.

“I was astonished at not only the huge number of convicted criminals who were freed from ICE custody last year – an average of almost 100 a day — but also at the large number of very serious crimes they had committed,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, in a statement.

ICE gathered the statistics — which include a breakdown by crime — in response to congressional inquiry following another report released earlier this year by the Center of Immigration Studies.

That report, which was based on internal Department of Homeland Security documents, showed that ICE encountered over 193,000 illegal immigrant convicts. Charging documents were issued for 125,000, and nearly 68,000 were released.

That review also found that 870,000 illegal immigrants had been removed from ICE dockets despite being in defiance of the law. The number of illegal aliens targeted for deportation fell 28 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the documents.

The 36,007 illegal immigrants reported Monday were freed by ICE during the final disposition of their cases. The 68,000 from the previous report were criminals who encountered ICE agents — often in jails — but were released without undergoing deportation proceedings.

The 36,007 were released by bond, parole, unsupervised release, or on their own recognizance.

Besides violent criminals, ICE released nearly 16,000 illegal immigrants convicted of driving under the influence. The report also shows that ICE released nearly 2,700 illegal immigrants convicted of assault, 1,300 convicted for domestic violence, and nearly 1,300 convicted for battery.

“These figures call into question President Obama’s request to Congress for permission to reduce immigration detention capacity by 10 percent in favor of permission to make wider use of experimental alternatives to detention,” reads the report.

In June 2011, the administration began applying “prosecutorial discretion” to many deportation cases. This has led to a 40 percent decrease in the number of deportations.

“Congress should resist further action on immigration reform until the public can be assured that enforcement is more robust and that ICE can better deal with its criminal alien caseload without setting them free in our communities,” said Vaughan in a statement. Read more about Murderers, Rapists, Kidnappers: Over 36,000 Criminal Illegal Immigrants Released In 2013

Federal ruling sparks policy change for jailed immigrants facing deportation in metro area

Undocumented immigrants in the metro area will no longer be held in county lockups for the sole purpose of deportation, a change that has implications statewide. 
 
Wednesday’s announcement by sheriff’s agencies in Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties follows a federal judge’s ruling that Clackamas County violated one woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her for immigration authorities without probable cause. 
 
Maria Miranda-Olivares was held 19 hours after completing a two-day sentence in Clackamas County Jail while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials investigated her residency status. She had been arrested March 14, 2012, on a domestic violence charge. 
 
Under the Secure Communities program, used to identify deportable immigrants in U.S. jails, ICE asks local authorities to hold certain inmates for up to two business days until they can be taken into federal custody. 
 
To read the rest of this article, please visit: http://www.oregonlive.com/washingtoncounty/index.ssf/2014/04/federal_rul...
 

Public advocacy, victims, and skewed moral compasses

The House of Representatives has taken up a bill, the Immigration Compliance Enforcement Act, that would, among other things, once again require de-funding of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's alien ombudsman position. 
 
I say "again" because the position, occupied by Andrew Lorenzen Strait, a crony of former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Napolitano who was hand-picked for the job, was already de-funded once by a measure that took effect a year ago. The administration's typically cheeky response was to keep employing the man and simply rename the position — deputy assistant director of custody programs and community outreach.
 
This in turn led an outraged member of Congress, Diane Black of Tennessee, to accuse the administration of hoodwinking Congress and to put together the latest de-funding effort. 
 
Of course, the House move has led many alien advocacy organizations to react in dismay. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum lamented, "Rather than signaling a desire to move forward, it entertains an effort to make our immigrant detention system more dysfunctional by cutting critical positions." 
 
I don't know how anyone can refer to the position as "critical" and I suspect that in Noorani's eyes any immigration detention system whatever is a sign of dysfunction. Apparently, so do members of the administration, given the position taken by Napolitano's replacement, Jeh Johnson, when he recently told Congress that the administration is inclined to see the legal mandate to keep 34,000 detention beds simply as "beds available" not necessarily beds filled. 
 
This is a curious position, akin to saying that speed limits are simply suggestions, not requirements. It's also an egregious waste of taxpayer money not to fill them, since they have to be paid for, full or empty. But it, and the ombudsman position itself, are part and parcel of the absurd ongoing narrative of illegal aliens as victims — of an unfair society and jack-booted government. The narrative has been fueled not just by advocacy groups, but the administration itself with its willingness to tolerate any and all flaunting of our immigration laws.
 
Witness, for instance, previously deported aliens recently gathering in large demonstrations at border checkpoints and then abusing our system by claiming asylum en masse. The administration's response to this, and the assertion that deportation "tears families apart", is apparently going to be to order immigration agents to look the other way and ignore previously deported aliens who illegally reenter the United States even though many of those aliens were deported in the first place because they were convicted of a criminal offense and about a quarter of all aliens arrested by both border and interior agents have previously been deported.
 
But who attends to the American citizens and lawful residents who are victimized by illegal alien criminals? Certainly not Andrew Lorenzen Strait, who was never an advocate for the public at large; his "public advocate" title sounds better than the more accurate "illegal alien advocate in the midst of a large agency supposedly dedicated to enforcing immigration laws". 
 
Sadly, the answer to the question "Who attends to American citizens and lawful residents who are victimized by illegal alien criminals?" appears to be "No one". The Center for Immigration Studies has documented, over a considerable period of time, any number of individuals killed, maimed, or otherwise harmed by illegal aliens, and the government's callousness and indifference to them and their surviving families.
 
As if we did not have enough such examples, now comes another. This one is so outrageous that the government appears to be willing to violate federal freedom of information and privacy laws in order to frustrate the attempts of the citizen victim to explore the legal avenues available. Here is a summary of the case prepared by Syracuse University's TRAC Freedom of Information Project:
 
Niche Knight was struck by a vehicle driven by Alfredo DeJesus Flores, an undocumented worker, which resulted in the amputation of both of Knight's legs. Knight filed a civil suit against Flores, who was temporarily incarcerated in the county jail and then removed to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In order to contact Flores for purposes of the civil suit, Knight asked ICE to provide his alien number and current address. ICE denied the request under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy). Knight appealed the agency's decision, but the agency upheld its denial, indicating that it would not disclose information about Flores without his consent. Knight then filed suit.
 
News reports and other online sources reveal that DeJesus Flores was charged with driving under the influence when he struck Ms. Knight. 
 
The exemption cited by ICE is shockingly inappropriate. The federal Privacy Act is very clear: The only individuals who have privacy rights under the law are United States citizens and lawful permanent resident aliens. (See 5 U.S.C. 552a(a)(2).) 
 
So in its zeal to protect the nonexistent privacy interests of an illegal alien criminal who maimed a United States citizen — as the result of just another one of the "minor" traffic offenses alien advocacy groups are constantly going on about — a federal agency stymies the victim and forces her to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain information that its "public" advocate should have immediately made available, given the facts of the case.
 
The tale of immigration enforcement under this administration is one of skewed moral compasses and misplaced narratives. The real victims of the story are American citizens and lawful resident aliens, collectively and individually.
 

Obama preparing to stop ICE from targeting immigration offenders

On Friday, a DHS official leaked to the Los Angeles Times hints of two policy changes in the works to further reduce deportations. If implemented, we can expect deportations to drop by tens of thousands per year, and the communities where they are released can expect them to renew the criminal activity that caused them to be referred to ICE in the first place. 
 
The first change apparently being considered would be to stop deporting illegal aliens whose "only" convictions have been for immigration offenses. 
 
Some immigration violations are quite serious, although anti-enforcement groups like to give the impression that they are the equivalent of jaywalking. For example, alien smuggling is an immigration offense, as is international child abduction, and immigration fraud. 
 
But perhaps most important to the anti-enforcement grievance groups, this policy change would stop ICE from removing illegal aliens who have been deported before. ICE agents would be forced to look the other way at illegal aliens committing a federal felony offense that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, depending on the circumstances. Similarly, agents would have to ignore illegal aliens who abscond from immigration court hearings. 
 
The proposed policy could prevent ICE from removing war criminals and terrorists, not to mention suspected sex offenders, gang members, and cartel operatives who for whatever reason have not been prosecuted or convicted of crimes, but who have immigration violations that enable ICE to kick them out.
 
It is an immigration violation for an illegal alien to possess a gun. Presumably that would cease to be a basis for removal under this policy, and one less tool for ICE agents to use against violent gangs.
 
The second change being considered would apparently limit the number of illegal aliens who could be detained after coming to ICE's attention after a local arrest. 
 
These are not small changes. Their effect would be to allow illegal aliens who are detected after committing crimes to remain at large, potentially continuing criminal activity and putting the public at risk. Illegal aliens who commit offenses that are rarely prosecuted or are dismissed, such as identity theft and traffic offenses, would suffer no consequences. These changes would welcome back all those who the U.S. government has already taken the time, effort, due process, and expense to process before, and invite still more to skip immigration hearings in further contempt of the law. 
 
Immigration enforcement, especially in the interior, has already deteriorated to the point where perhaps 90 percent of the illegal aliens in the country now face no threat of deportation, thanks to the administration's "prosecutorial discretion" policies.
 
The number of aliens deported from the interior has dropped 40 percent since 2011, despite the fact that ICE agents are encountering more criminal aliens than ever before, as a result of better information sharing with local police and jails. 
 
If the first proposed change barring ICE from removing non-criminal immigration violators were to be implemented, ICE would end up removing significantly fewer illegal aliens. In 2013, ICE removed 23,436 who fell into this category, representing 17 percent of interior removals. These included 10,358 repeat immigration violators, 10,336 first-time immigration violators, and 2,742 immigration fugitives. It is worth repeating that the vast majority of these individuals were referred to ICE because of a local arrest.
 
It is unclear how the second proposed change, limiting detention of arrested illegal aliens, would affect operations. Already less than 2 percent of ICE's caseload is detained (less than 33,000 aliens out of 1.8 million). More than three-fourths of current immigration detentions are mandated by statute — such as cases of violent felons who re-enter after deportation. ICE already releases and/or declines to process more than 70 percent of the aliens encountered by officers, even though most are discovered as a result of the alien's involvement in criminal activity, and most are deportable. 
 
This is all political fun and games for the White House, designed to mollify the anti-enforcement grievance groups who are demanding an end to all deportations — until someone gets killed. And that's not hyperbole. A 2012 study initiated by the House Judiciary committee with subpoenaed data from ICE found that 59 murders were committed over a 2.5 year period by illegal aliens who had been referred to ICE but were released instead of charged. 
 
Prosecution of immigration violators — regardless of criminal convictions — is important not only for public safety reasons, but because it helps maintain the integrity of our immigration system. To ignore repeated violations simply invites more lawbreaking, and is profoundly unfair to those trying to navigate our legal immigration system. 
 
 

Hillsboro police officer justified in fatal shooting of man during traffic stop, DA says

Court records indicate that Victor Torres-Elizondo, killed by a Hillsboro police officer after he fired a shot at police during a traffic stop, had a criminal history that involved multiple drug-related crimes but no violent offenses....
 

...Torres-Elizondo, 30, who also goes by Victor Torres, had multiple drug-related convictions in Oregon and Washington state during the past 10 years, according to court records....

Read more about Victor Torres-Elizondo.
  Read more about Hillsboro police officer justified in fatal shooting of man during traffic stop, DA says

Obama Deportations Definitely Not Record-Breaking

In its first four years the Obama administration deported 3.2 million aliens, averaging just over 800,000 per year. Pro-amnesty advocacy groups, administration officials, lawmakers, and lazy reporters all have claimed this is a record, but it is not. In fact, according to historical DHS statistics, this is the lowest total and annual average since the mid-1970s.

Bloomberg News reporter Bill Selway wrote this last week:

The ordinances come as Obama's administration has faced pressure from Democratic lawmakers and Hispanic backers to scale back deportations, which hit a record 409,900 in the 2012 budget year. During his five years in office, the Obama administration has sent 1.93 million people back to their home countries, close to what President George W. Bush did in eight years and nearly as many as in the 108 years before Bush took office.

The statistic in the first sentence refers to the number of deportations claimed by ICE for 2012, not total deportations. In order to achieve this "record," ICE juiced its numbers by counting certain Border Patrol cases as ICE removals, which had not been done in prior years. (Border Patrol deportations are usually counted as "returns".) So ICE's deportation record under the Obama administration is about as valid as Barry Bonds' home run record.

Because the Obama administration has blurred the lines of which agencies can take credit for deportations, the only fair way to assess their performance is to count all deportations done by all the DHS agencies. These are reported every year in the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics in Table 39, which shows the number of "removals" and "returns" by all immigration enforcement agencies going back to 1927.

There we find that the total number of aliens "sent back" under first four years of the Obama administration is just over 3.2 million (not 1.93 million, as Selway wrote). This is an annual average of just over 800,000 sent back per year. Official numbers for 2013 have not been released yet, but the total will be about the same, with just over 400,000 Border patrol deportations and about 370,000 attributed to ICE.

That is nowhere near the totals under George Bush's administration, which were over 10.3 million total deportations with an annual average of 1.2 million (see the table below).

 

 

The real record for deportations belongs to the Clinton administration. Obama's total is lower than the last six administrations, even lower than Jimmy Carter's.

Sure, illegal border crossings, which generate the lion's share of all deportations, have slowed some during the Obama administration, and that's one reason why the Border Patrol is deporting fewer aliens, but the plain fact remains that the Obama administration has not deported more people than any recent previous administration – not even close. The other reason the Obama deportation numbers are low is because interior enforcement has been nearly dismantled due to executive-decree amnesties and so-called "prosecutorial discretion," which shields at least 90 percent of the illegal population from enforcement.

The most egregious reporting malpractice in Selway's article is the absurd claim that Obama's deportation numbers are "nearly as many as in the 108 years before Bush took office."

I expect the pro-amnesty advocacy groups to keep spouting bogus statistics to support their outrageous demands for an end to all deportations, but there's no excuse for reporters at national news organizations to keep accepting it at face value. Read more about Obama Deportations Definitely Not Record-Breaking

Report: Deportations plummet in 2013, lowest since 2007

 

Authorities deported fewer illegal immigrants in fiscal 2013 than at any time since President Obama took office, according to secret numbers obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies that suggest Mr. Obama’s nondeportation policies have hindered removals.

Just 364,700 illegal immigrants were removed in fiscal 2013, according to internal numbers from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement that CIS released Wednesday — down 11 percent from the nearly 410,000 who were deported in 2012.


SPECIAL COVERAGE: Immigration Reform


Homeland Security officials didn’t dispute the numbers, but said their own counts are still preliminary.

The administration has testified to Congress that it has enough money to deport 400,000 every year, but Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at CIS, said Mr. Obama and the Homeland Security Department have placed so many illegal immigrants off-limits for deportations that they cannot find enough people to fulfill that quota.

“The policies that they’ve implemented, especially prosecutorial discretion and the new detainer policy, are dramatically suppressing interior enforcement,” Ms. Vaughan said. “Even though they are finding out about more illegal aliens than ever before, especially more criminal aliens, the ICE agents in the field have been ordered to look the other way.”

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the agency has not tried to hide its new priorities, which have led to changes in the demographics of deportations.

“Over the course of this administration, DHS has set clear, common sense priorities to ensure that our finite enforcement resources are focused on public safety, national security, and border security,” she said.

“ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration enforcement strategy to focus on convicted criminals, public safety and border security and our removal numbers illustrate this,” she said.

The CIS report is bound to shake up the immigration debate going on in Congress.

Immigrant-rights advocates argue that Mr. Obama is removing too many people and have called for him to halt all deportations until Congress acts.

Indeed, immigrant-rights advocates cheered the new numbers, saying that if ICE confirms them, it will mean Mr. Obama is beginning to curb excessive enforcement.

“The dragnet deportation of 400,000 immigrants annually does nothing to make our streets safer, and constitutes a huge expenditure of government resources,” said Ruthie Epstein, policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union.

But those who want to see a crackdown say the administration is already ignoring most illegal immigrants, and said the latest numbers back that up.

Ms. Vaughan said that ICE agents and officers are encountering more immigrants than ever, including those with criminal records, which makes the drop in deportations more surprising. She said there’s a “target-rich environment” but the administration has hamstrung deportations.

The 364,700 deportations are the lowest since fiscal year 2007, which was in the middle of the last time Congress debated immigration.

Mr. Obama and his appointees at the Homeland Security Department have issued several policies designed to put illegal immigrants in the interior of the U.S. off-limits from deportations.

Probably the most famous of those is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which applies to so-called Dreamers, the young illegal immigrants who were usually brought to the U.S. as minors by their parents and are considered among the most sympathetic cases in the immigration debate.


Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/30/deportations-plummet-2013-lowest-2007/?page=2#ixzz2jJj4nPkx
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Mexican cartels hiring US soldiers as hit men

Mexican cartels are recruiting hit men from the U.S. military, offering big money to highly-trained soldiers to carry out contract killings and potentially share their skills with gangsters south of the border, according to law enforcement experts.

The involvement of three American soldiers in separate incidents, including a 2009 murder that led to last week’s life sentence for a former Army private, underscore a problem the U.S. military has fought hard to address.

"We have seen examples over the past few years where American servicemen are becoming involved in this type of activity," said Fred Burton, vice president for STRATFOR Global Intelligence. "It is quite worrisome to have individuals with specialized military training and combat experience being associated with the cartels."

"It is quite worrisome to have individuals with specialized military training and combat experience being associated with the cartels."

- Fred Burton, STRATFOR Global Intelligence.

The life sentence handed down in El Paso District court July 25 to an Army private hired by the Juarez Cartel to be the triggerman in a 2009 hit in this border city is the most recent case.

Michael Apodaca, 22, was a private first-class stationed at nearby Fort Bliss Army Base and was attached to the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade when he was recruited and paid $5,000 by the Juarez Cartel to shoot and kill Jose Daniel Gonzalez-Galeana, a cartel member who had been outed as an informant for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Apodaca, who was the triggerman in the May 15, 2009, hit, was sentenced in El Paso District Court July 25.

Last September, Kevin Corley, 29, a former active-duty Army first lieutenant from Fort Carson in Colorado, pleaded guilty in federal court in Laredo, Texas, to conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire for the Los Zetas Cartel after being arrested in a sting operation. Ironically, that cartel was itself founded by Special Forces deserters from the Mexican Army.

Arrested with Corley in connection with the case was former Army Sgt. Samuel Walker, 28. He was convicted of committing a murder-for-hire in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years in prison June 21.

Walker served in Afghanistan with Corley’s 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division platoon between 2010-2011. Shortly after their return, they made contact with the undercover DEA agent they thought was a member of Los Zetas.

According to his plea agreement, Corley was introduced to undercover agents posing as members of Los Zetas cartel in September 2011; he admitted to being an active-duty officer in the U.S. Army responsible for training soldiers. He told his contact he could provide tactical training for members of the cartel and purchase weapons for them. In later meetings, Corley discussed stealing weapons from military posts and military tactics. On Dec. 23, 2011, he agreed to perform a contract killing for the cartel in exchange for $50,000 and cocaine.

Burton said some soldiers become corrupted by gangs after joining, while others are gang members who enlist specifically for the training they can get.

“There has been a persistent gang problem in the military for the past six to eight years,” Burton said, adding that cartels greatly value trained soldiers from the U.S., Mexico and Guatemala as sicarios – hit men.

More recently, the May 22 murder of Juan Guerrero-Chapa, 43, a former lawyer for the Gulf Cartel, in a mall parking lot in an affluent suburb of Fort Worth has raised concerns due to the military precision with which it was carried out.

"Obviously, the nature of this homicide, the way it was carried out indicates –– and I said indicates –– an organization that is trained to do this type of activity," Southlake Police Chief Stephen Mylett said following the attack. "When you're dealing with individuals that operate on such a professional level, certainly caution forces me to have to lean toward that this is an organized criminal activity act.”

While Mylett acknowledged the murder was a “targeted affair conducted by professional killers,” he would not confirm or deny suspicions that current or previous military was involved.

“The case is still being investigated,” Mylett said.

A task force consisting of the Southlake Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, FBI, DEA, and Department of Homeland Security is investigating the case.

But an expert on Mexican cartels, who declined to be identified, said the “operation was brilliant and disciplined.”

“I would be asking the question -- if military was involved -- if I was leading the investigation based on the MO, geography and precision,” said the expert. “I don't have any information to confirm, but we know that a hit team came in and out and there was also a stand-alone recon team.”

Using American servicemen could make it easier to carry out a murder in the U.S. since they can more easily move across the border. And the lure of quick money has proven tempting for theses soldiers given the dismal military pay scale.

Apodaca’s fee for killing Galaena was nearly three times his monthly pay. A sergeant like Walker makes around $2,500 per month, and Corley $4,500. Both hoped for $50,000 each and drugs from their “Los Zetas” connection.

Growing ties between U.S.-based gangs, which have long infiltrated the military, and the Mexican cartels could be making American soldiers even more readily available to the cartels south of the border. The FBI National Gang Intelligence Center reports its concern with gang members with military training poses a unique threat to law enforcement personnel because of their distinctive weapons and combat training skills and ability to transfer these skills to fellow gang members. As of April 2011, the NGIC has identified members of at least 53 gangs whose members have served in or are affiliated with U.S. military.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Hispanic prison gangs along the Southwest border region are strengthening their ties with cartels to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs. There are also strong indications that in exchange for a consistent drug supply, gangs smuggle and distribute drugs, collect drug proceeds, launder money, smuggle weapons, commit kidnappings, and serve as lookouts and enforcers on behalf of the cartels, according to law enforcement sources.

The NDIC has also found that gang-related activity and violence has increased along the Southwest border region, as U.S.-based gangs seek to prove their worth to the drug cartels, compete with other gangs for favor, and act as U.S.-based enforcers for cartels which involves home invasions, robbery, kidnapping and murder.

Army officials have sought to address the issue of gang and cartel influence within their ranks with tighter recruiting standards. A spokesman told FoxNews.com that current recruiting efforts are much more stringent than even four years ago, and that anyone sporting a gang-related tattoo is no longer accepted for enlistment.

“A person like Michael Apodaca would not even be allowed to enlist today,” Army Maj. Joe Buccino, spokesman for the Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, told FoxNews.com. “We’re more selective than during the height of Iraq.” Read more about Mexican cartels hiring US soldiers as hit men

Drug fighters run on fumes

COQUILLE — After 25 years of battling crime, the area’s multi-agency anti-drug task force could run out of money in a little more than a year.

Running out would force the South Coast Interagency Narcotics Team to depend on already cash-strapped local governments.

Cal Mitts, SCINT’s director, said the team has enough grant money to continue operations for approximately 14 months.

The team, which borrows detectives from local police agencies, leads anti-drug investigations by its member agencies. It relies on federal and community grants to pay its staff.

“We’re 100 percent grant-funded,” Mitts said.

The problem? Grants have dried up. And the financial crunch is coming at a time when use of both methamphetamine and heroin is rebounding in the area.

“They’re both up considerably,” Mitts said.

Combating meth has been one of SCINT’s primary missions throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. One of the most noteworthy victories came in 2005, when SCINT and other agencies arrested 15 people in the Barview area in a project named Operation: Black Ice.

The number of meth labs in the area shrank after state legislators moved a key precursor chemical behind pharmacy counters. Starting in 2006, any psuedoephedrine purchase required a prescription.

But shutting down the labs didn’t stop meth. Mitts said criminal drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have filled the gap.

In May, a task force of state and federal law enforcement agencies arrested more than 30 people in Klamath County suspected of operating a meth-trafficking ring.

The Oregon Department of Justice said it had found links between the traffickers and Mexican cartels.

I would comfortably say 90 percent — basically all of our drugs — are coming from south of the border,” Mitts said.

While methamphetamine is seeing a resurgence in the area, its nothing like what’s being experienced with heroin.

Despite popular perceptions, Mitts said heroin has a long history in the area.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, there was a lot more of it,” he said. “It was black tar as opposed to powdered — or ‘gunpowder.’”

Still, Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier — who once served as a special prosecutor for the team — said arrests for the drug were relatively uncommon.

“In the seven years I was there, I could probably count on both hands and my toes the whole number of heroin cases we had,” Frasier said.

But the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse that hit the nation in the past decade brought with it a new generation of heroin users.

“With the safeguards that have been put in place since that rise, the people who cannot obtain the pain pills that they could in the past are looking on the street,” Frasier said.

Both Mitts and Frasier said heroin is now cheaper on the South Coast’s black market than prescription opiate-based painkillers.

“It’s alarming to see the age demographics,” Mitts said. “They keep getting younger.”

The veteran officer said he’d be hard-pressed to name anyone the team had arrested recently over the age of 30.

Over the past decade, the team has relied heavily on community and federal grants to pay its salaries.

Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said that from 2003 through 2010 — the year before the House Republican leadership banned all earmarks — he managed to secure more than $1 million to fund the team. The last earmark was the biggest — about $600,000 — and SCINT has lived on it ever since.

“Unfortunately, the Republican ban on earmarks remains in effect, to the detriment of programs like SCINT, but I will continue to fight to fund it in any way I can,” DeFazio said.

Mitts said the team supplements federal money with smaller community grants, including one from the Coquille Indian Tribe.

Mitts said if the agency can’t secure more outside funding, its only option will be to turn to the county and its partner city governments for help.

“What we’re going to have to see is the different municipalities stepping up,” he said.

But Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni said his agency is already exceeding its commitment to SCINT.

“We already house the team and fund it by providing staff out of the department,” Zanni said.

More money?

“Unless the commissioners hit the Powerball jackpot, I doubt it,” he said.

In its heyday, SCINT had four detectives, an administrative aide, an intelligence analyst, a director and a special prosecutor. Mitts said he’s currently operating with two full-time detectives.

A few years ago, the team hit its lowest point: a director and one detective. It could return to that level if the grants aren’t renewed within 14 months or so, Frasier said.

In the meantime, SCINT continues to pursue its mission with the resources it has on hand. Mitts said a recent operation targeting a low-income housing development in Empire netted a number of heroin arrests.

The veteran officer said for investigations like that to be successful, the public has to provide information — and then testify in court.

“We can only do so much with anonymous information,” Mitts said.

What about asset forfeiture?

While SCINT today relies on grants for its survival, it wasn’t always that way.

Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier, who formerly served as a special prosecutor for the team, said that in SCINT’s early days, the team subsisted primarily on asset forfeitures from drug arrests.

In those days, drug task forces nationwide commonly supported themselves by selling cars, homes and other property seized in raids.

Marijuana not methamphetamine, was SCINT’s cash cow.

“The meth cases generally did not generate a lot of forfeitures,” Frasier said. Chemical contamination makes former meth labs unappealing to potential buyers.

In the late 1990s, Oregon voters passed two ballot measures that would inhibit the team’s ability to profit from asset forfeitures.

The first was Measure 67 in 1998, better known as the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. Because so many marijuana growing operations are being conducted under the auspices of the act, prosecutions and subsequent seizures prove difficult, Frasier said.

Then, in 2000, Oregon voters passed Measure 3, which prevented law enforcement from retaining the proceeds from forfeited assets.

“With the lack of funds being available for SCINT to operate, it basically went into a shutdown mode,” Frasier said.

The Legislature loosened the law in 2008, allowing police to keep as much as 63 percent of forfeiture proceeds. But Frasier said the continued difficulty in prosecuting marijuana growers means the process remains relatively unprofitable.

Lack of options for treating opiate addiction

Increasing opiate addiction on the South Coast is straining the resources of treatment providers.

The area badly needs residential services and increased access to Suboxone for detox purposes, said Diedrie Lindsey, director of ADAPT Counseling and Treatment Services. ADAPT provides drug and alcohol treatment services to people on parole and probation through Coos County Community Corrections.

“With opiate addiction, people get three days into the seizure and they’ll hurt so bad they’ll go out and use,” she said.

Suboxone is a drug containing the semi-synthetic opiate buprenorphine and a chemical called nalaxone, which blocks opiate receptors in the central nervous system. Lindsey said the drug is one of the most effective ways to help patients detox, but he knows of only one provider in the area.

Lindsey said ADAPT sees 16-20 people on parole and probation as part of its contract with Coos County, and about 260 people total. Read more about Drug fighters run on fumes

Klamath County raids lead to 38 arrests

GRANTS PASS — More than 300 local, state and federal officers, some in camouflage gear and helmets, fanned out across rural Klamath County in the pre-dawn darkness Wednesday and arrested 38 people accused of operating a methamphetamine and gun distribution network connected to Mexican drug cartels. Ten more were still sought.

Darin Tweedt, chief counsel of the criminal division of the Oregon Department of Justice, said the raids were the culmination of an eight-month investigation dubbed Operation Trojan Horse. It started last October when agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives came to the state criminal division with information about the ring. State authorities enlisted the help of local authorities and other federal agencies, and the investigation snowballed.

"We have evidence that shows they are linked to the cartels," Tweedt said of those arrested. "The goal of this particular operation was to send a pretty clear signal that we are not neglecting to enforce narcotics laws in rural Oregon counties. We cast a pretty wide net."

In the course of searching 23 homes and businesses in Klamath Falls and outlying rural communities, police also seized 4 pounds of methamphetamine and 50 guns.

The Herald and News newspaper reported officers used flash-bang grenades and forced their way in to some homes.

"This operation takes a big group of suspected meth dealers off our streets," Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement.

Nearly all of the methamphetamine and heroin available in Oregon comes through Mexico, said Chris Gibson, Oregon director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Mexican gangs also are responsible for most of the large marijuana being grown illegally on remote national forestlands in Oregon.

The agency's statistics showed that seizures of methamphetamine and guns in Oregon have been trending upward since 2008, along with drug arrests. Seizures of marijuana and cocaine are down. Seizures of heroin and prescription drugs are up.

Law enforcement task forces report they are investigating 47 drug gangs in Oregon, 24 of which are described as Mexican or Hispanic, Gibson said.

Tweedt refused to comment on whether the ring was connected to the killing last fall of two California men whose bodies were found buried on an abandoned ranch outside the rural community of Bonanza, where some of the arrests were carried out. The slain men were identified as Ricardo Jauregui, 38, of Oakley, Calif., and Everado Mendez-Ceja, 32, of Richmond, Calif. They had told their families they were going to Oregon to buy a horse and hay. Their truck was burned.

The arrests overwhelmed the local jail, which has closed whole sections because of budget cuts related to the loss of federal timber subsidies. Tweedt said the Klamath County sheriff opened unused sections to accommodate all the people being arrested. More arrests were expected as police continued serving warrants. Klamath County Circuit Court started arraigning the first of those arrested. A grand jury will start considering indictments next week.

Tweedt said the drugs were manufactured somewhere else then distributed around Klamath County and neighboring rural areas. Very little methamphetamine has been made in Oregon since laws went into effect regulating the sale of cold medicines, which can be used in making the chemical.

Among the 19 people arraigned was Jose Buenaventura Vinals, 50, of Klamath Falls, District Attorney Rob Patridge said. He was charged with two counts of racketeering and two counts of selling methamphetamine. The district attorney's information alleged that Vinals was involved with at least six other people in a criminal enterprise dating back to Oct. 1, 2012. Others arrested included men and women ranging in age from 22 to 49 from Bonanza, Chiloquin, Klamath Falls and Beatty.
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