FOX UNDERCOVER - For the first time in Massachusetts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are using the controversial Secure Communities program during a targeted enforcement operation to find and take into custody illegal immigrants who it believes pose a threat to the community.
ICE agents are calling the operation Threats Against the Community, and FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet has an exclusive look into the operation.
The agents began suiting up for work before the sun rose on Wednesday in hopes of taking into custody illegal immigrants that they targeted in Revere and Boston.
ICE identiifed many of these illegal immigrants using the Secure Communities program which shares the fingerprints of people arrested by police with ICE.
ICE Assistant Field Office Director Jim Brown says the priority is finding convicted criminals who are in the country illegally.
"We don't want somebody like this living next to you, or me, or any of our family and friends," Brown told FOX Undercover.
Agents were unable to find their first suspect who has an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon conviction; however, Ramiro Diaz, another target, wasn't so lucky.
ICE agents led Diaz, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, out of his East Boston home in handcuffs. He was located by ICE agents following a June arrest for driving without a license. Agents then learned that Diaz has been caught in the U.S. on the Mexican border five times since 2008 and sent back to Mexico each time.
FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet spoke with Diaz before he was taken away by officers and asked him, "Why do you want to be in this country?"
Diaz responded in Spanish that he is here for his family's sake and his kids' sake. He works in construction to support his family back home and does not believe that his arrest is justified.
Diaz admits he is here illegally, but says criminals should be the main target. He says he is not a drug trafficker. He's not into child molesting. He's here to work, and he's very upset that the officers have taken him into custody.
But ICE is making no apologies.
"Is it really fair to deport this guy?" Beaudet asked Brown.
"Absolutely. If you're a person who's been through the immigration system and been removed from the U.S. at the taxpayers' expense and then returned with total disregard to existing law. You're not an innocent person," Brown replied.
Diaz is just one of the many people taken into custody and booked. He is one of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Diaz's fingerprints revealed all his previous encounters with the federal government. He returned to the same building where his recent arrest for driving without a license came to ICE's attention.
FOX Undercover visited the Secure Communities Duty Room at ICE's New England headquarters in Burlington. On a daily basis, officers go through all the Massachusetts cases flagged through the program and decide if further action is needed.
Needless to say, they are busy. There have already been thousands of cases flagged since the program went into effect in May.
Nearly two dozen people have been arrested since Operation Threats Against the Community started on Tuesday. ICE officers will be back on the streets on Thursday.
But the operation has its critics, including the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, which says, "Secure Communities has been sold as a program that goes after serious criminals, but... instead has been ensnaring too many people who pose no community threat at all. In Boston, about half of those deported through the program, according to ICE's own statistics, have been convicted of no criminal offense."