Massive Sweep Nabs 239 Foreign Nationals Suspected of Gang Activity

Officials from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) recently concluded a five-week operation, Project Shadowfire, which resulted in the arrest of 1,133 individuals, including 239 foreign nationals, on charges related to international gang activity.

While many of the individuals detained were American citizens, the nature of the operation meant that individuals from a number of other countries were also taken into custody. Individuals detained included foreign nationals from Mexico, China, El Salvador, the Philippines and other countries. Criminal charges levied against those detained include accusations of murder, drug trafficking, human trafficking and racketeering, in addition to immigration-related charges.

In addition to detaining individuals, officials involved in Project Shadowfire also discovered and seized firearms, narcotics and cash.

Project Shadowfire focused on gang activity in a number of major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston and El Paso, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. The operation was the latest in a string dating back to 2005, when Operation Community Shield was instituted to combat gang violence.


As ICE’s key initiative in battling gang activity, Operation Community Shield has led to the arrest of over 40,000 suspected gang members and the removal of more than 8,000 firearms from criminal possession. The initiative focuses on identifying, disrupting and putting an end to gang-related activity through arrests, prosecution and deportation proceedings.

Conducted by ICE through its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, along with cooperation from local, state and federal partners, Operation Community Shield has enacted a number of focused operations similar to Project Shadowfire. Other operations have identified targets based on specific criminal activities, such as human trafficking and drug trafficking, as well as individual gangs themselves. Evidence and intelligence gleaned from operations like Project Shadowfire are then used to aid future investigations and sweeps.

Following an operation like Project Shadowfire, suspects are likely to face criminal charges and, in the case of foreign nationals, immigration charges. Officials charged over 1,000 individuals arrested during Project Shadowfire with criminal offenses.

Suspected involvement in gang activity creates legal problems for anyone, but the concerns faced by foreign nationals are uniquely complex due to the particulars of U.S. immigration law. If you or a loved one face criminal or immigration-related charges due to suspected gang involvement, the assistance and counsel of a skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyer can provide practical help as well as peace of mind.

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