In increasing numbers, agents for the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are quietly arresting undocumented immigrants, one at a time, on a daily basis. For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, agents in the Los Angeles area—which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties—deported 2,341 illegal immigrants one by one—people like Alvarez Monarez whose names and whereabouts were known to them.
Primary among the agents’ targets are people who have been ordered deported by immigration judges but who are allowed to remain in the country pending appeal. The final decision comes in the mail from the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Department of Justice. The letters are known euphemistically as “run letters” because the recipients frequently flee after receiving word that their deportation appeals were denied.
Federal officials estimate that as many as 90% of those who receive deportation orders ignore them. There are about 35,000 such absconders in Southern California and nearly 400,000 nationwide, the government estimates.
Immigration officials concede that many of the deported illegal immigrants will return.
“We just tell the wives, ‘Listen, lady, call your husband’s job and tell them he’ll be sick for the next couple of days,’” said Jorge Field, who supervises ICE deportation officers.