Federal immigration agents arrested dozens of gang members, including members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha, during days-long sweeps throughout Texas.
Eighty street gang members were arrested during a five-day sweep through Houston, Beaumont, and Corpus Christi. Agents also arrested 52 gang members and 14 of their associates during a six-day operation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, U.S. Immigration officials said Tuesday.
The joint operation between U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and federal, state and local law enforcement officers was part of a national initiative targeting transnational street gangs, said Gregory Palmore, an ICE spokesman.
The North Texas operation targeted foreign-born gang members and their associates. They included people born in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Laos. People without gang affiliations and U.S. citizens wanted on warrants and criminal violations also were arrested.
"Street gangs are responsible for a significant amount of crime nationally and locally," said John Chakwin Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Dallas.
The sweeps also nabbed 36 immigration status violators in Southeast Texas and 37 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The Texas sweep netted gang members with ties to at least 20 street gangs, including Surenos Trece, Aryan Brotherhood, True Bud Smokers, Laotian Oriental Killer Boyz, Butter Bean Boys, Latin Kings, La Raza13, Black Disciples, Houstone, Tango Blast, Bloods and Crips.
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"ICE uses all of the available law enforcement tools to dismantle violent street gangs," Robert P. Rutt, special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations in Houston, said in a news release.
Since it began in February 2005, Operation Community Shield has resulted in the arrests of more than13,000 gang members and gang associates linked to more than 900 different gangs, officials said. That includes more than 150 gang leaders.