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Suspected gang members arrested, face deportation

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

One hundred, twenty-seven foreign-born Hispanics were arrested in a state-wide operation. And all have been subjected to deportation proceedings.

The expansive operation, called "Community Shield," lasted about a week, and was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in cooperation with two dozen local law enforcement agencies, including the Forest Park Police Department, the Henry County Police Department and the Clayton County Police Department.

The 127 were suspected gang members, or suspected of being associated with gangs. Six are going to be charged in federal court, according to Kenneth Smith, special-agent-in-charge of the ICE Office Investigations in Atlanta. Nineteen are expected to face local charges.

Deportment proceedings have begun against all 127, Smith said.

"These criminals seek to terrorize our communities through their violent acts against the innocent," Smith said. "These recent arrests should send the message to gang members that the law enforcement community in Georgia is united in full force. Our law-abiding citizens can sleep a little better tonight knowing that there are more than 120 violent gang members off our streets."

Smith said those arrested included leaders of such gangs as La Raza, Westside Via Locos and Inland Empire, including:

· Vincente Garcia, a 31-year-old leader of SUR-13, who was previously convicted of armed robbery and vehicle theft.

· Salvador Delamora, a 34-year-old leader of Westside Via Locas, who was previously convicted of attempted robbery.

· Roberto Dominguez, a 27-year-old previously convicted of conspiracy to commit assault in a federal racketeering case.

Other gangs which reportedly lost members in the operation were: West Side Locos, Vatos Locos, Brown Side Locos, Latin Kings, MS-13, Northside 14 and Southside Rascals.

The gangs were described as "transnational, violent street gangs," but Smith said there were only two weapons seized in the arrests of the Mexicans, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans.

The 127 were identified by local law enforcement gang units, which worked to put together a "target list" for the ICE-led operation. Smith said the local agencies are able to use immigration laws to get rid of suspected gang members.

"There are many known gang members," the special agent said, "but I think, with these transnational gangs, this is one of the extra tools we have."

The operation is ongoing in Georgia, and has, since 2005, arrested and charged or deported a total of about 8,000 foreign-born, suspected gang members. Smith said 700 of those were arrested in the metro Atlanta area.

"We do see a real quick impact. These operations do hamper the activities of gangs. It definitely makes them more cautious. They're definitely harder to find and arrest at the end of the week than at the beginning. It's something that has to be maintained, though," Smith said.