A five-week operation, dubbed Project Shadowfire, netted 1,133 arrests, including more than 900 transnational criminal gang members and others associated with transnational criminal activity, like drug trafficking, human smuggling and sex trafficking, murder and racketeering. The nationwide operation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and concluded March 21.
Texas statewide arrests during this operation totaled 266 individuals. In the Houston area of responsibility (AOR), HSI made 112 arrests. Of these arrests, 66 were made in the Corpus Christi - area. Within the AOR, 96 were arrested on active Texas criminal warrants, with 12 cases being pursued federally. Members and associates were arrested from 26 gang affiliations.
“This operation is the latest example of ICE’s ongoing efforts, begun more than a decade ago under Operation Community Shield, to target violent gang members and their associates, to eradicate the violence they inflict upon our communities and to stop the cash flow to transnational organized crime groups operating overseas,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña.
Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents, working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, have made more than 40,000 gang-related arrests and seized more than 8,000 firearms.
Project Shadowfire was a surge operation conducted under Operation Community Shield, and led by the HSI National Gang Unit. Between Feb. 15 and March 21, HSI special agents worked with numerous state, local and federal law enforcement partners, including ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), to apprehend individuals from various gangs.
Most of the individuals arrested during Project Shadowfire were U.S. citizens, but 239 foreign nationals from 13 countries in Central America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean were also arrested. Most of the U.S. citizens arrested had open warrants for their arrest and were turned over to the custody of local law enforcement agencies.
Following is the nationality breakdown of the 239 foreign nationals arrested: Mexico (129), El Salvador (56), Honduras (22), Dominican Republic (11), Guatemala (9), India (3), Jamaica (2), Philippines (2), and one arrest each for Belize, China, Morocco, Peru and Spain.
Of the 1,133 arrests, 915 were gang members and associates, 1,001 were charged with criminal offenses and 132 were arrested administratively for immigration violations. Some of those arrested on immigration violations had illegally re-entered the United States after having been previously deported, which is a felony.
The majority of arrestees were affiliated with gangs like MS-13, Sureños, Norteños, Bloods and several prison-based gangs. Enforcement actions occurred around the country, with the greatest activity taking place in the Los Angeles, San Juan, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, and El Paso areas.
HSI special agents also seized 150 firearms, more than 20 kilograms of narcotics and more than $70,000 in U.S currency.
About Operation Community Shield
Operation Community Shield is a global initiative, started by ICE in 2005, in which HSI collaborates with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to combat the growth and proliferation of transnational criminal street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs in the United States and abroad. Through its domestic and international Operation Community Shield task forces, HSI leverages its worldwide presence and expansive statutory and civil enforcement authorities to mitigate the threats posted by these global networks, often through the tracing and seizing of cash, weapons and other illicit proceeds.
Partnerships with state, local, federal and international law enforcement agencies are critical to the success of HSI gang enforcement operations. Law enforcement partners provide actionable intelligence which is critical in targeting gangs and their membership for enforcement actions. HSI special agents use intelligence gathered from surge operations to pursue complex criminal enterprise investigations and federal prosecutions.
The National Gang Unit oversees HSI’s expansive transnational gang portfolio and enables special agents to bring the fight to these criminal enterprises through the development of uniform enforcement and intelligence-sharing strategies.
Recent National Gang Unit-led operations include: Southern Tempest in 2011, targeting gangs affiliated with drug trafficking; Project Nefarious in 2012, targeting gangs involved in human smuggling and trafficking; Project Southbound in 2014, targeting the Sureños, the fasting growing transnational gang in the U.S., and Project Wildfire in 2015, the largest gang surge conducted by HSI to date.
Additionally, for the past three years, ICE has held an anti-gang conference with the U.S. Department of State in Mexico City to provide training and capacity building for international law enforcement officers to combat and prevent gang activities.
To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour, toll-free hotline at: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ice.gov/tips.