Dubbed “Project Big Freeze,” it is the largest nationwide enforcement operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, ICE agents targeted gang members and illegal immigrants with ties to criminal gangs in other countries.
Of the 476 arrested, 366 are not U.S. citizens and face deportation either immediately or when their criminal prosecution is complete, ICE officials announced Wednesday. The operation took place from Jan. 17 through Sunday.
The 26 arrests in Minnesota included nine gang members and 14 gang associates in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Farmington, Howard Lake, New Hope, Richfield and Shakopee, said Tim Counts, spokesman for the local ICE office.
Those arrested came from Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia and other countries, ICE said. Gang affiliations include the Sureño 13, the Bishops, the Gangster Disciples, 18th Street, the Latin Kings and the Rough Tough Somali Crips.
Richfield Police Chief Barry Fritz participated in the announcement in Washington, with Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary John Morton and Charles Cato, assistant police chief in Dallas.
Fritz said working with ICE allows his small department — 44 sworn officers — to expand its intelligence gathering and go after a rising number of gang members from other countries. He said a 2008 homicide and other local crimes have had ties to gangs with international connections.
“Being in a seven-county metro area makes it difficult to track these guys,” Fritz said. “Working with ICE allows us to cross jurisdictional boundaries.”