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Remarks as Prepared by Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf on Operation Rise’s Success

Release Date: 
October 16, 2020

Good morning, everyone.

We are here today to announce the success of the second phase of Operation Rise, ICE’s latest operation targeting criminal aliens in Sanctuary Cities across the country. With each and every phase of this operation, we are making American communities more safe and more secure.

I want to commend Acting Director Pham and the men and women of ICE for their continued success in this operation, particularly in light of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, we announced the results of Phase 1 of Operation Rise, which focused on several jurisdictions in California that have chosen to implement dangerous and irresponsible Sanctuary City Policies.

Phase 2 of this Operation was much more expansive, and focused on the jurisdictions of Philadelphia, Denver, Seattle, New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore—all of which have enacted similarly reckless policies.

Like Phase 1, this phase of Operation Rise targeted some of the most violent and dangerous criminal aliens living illegally in our country.

In addition to investigating and arresting these violent criminals, ICE recently launched a billboard campaign here in Pennsylvania educating the public about the dangers of Sanctuary City policies.

Each billboard features at-large criminals who were previously arrested or convicted of crimes and pose a threat to American citizens, but were inexplicably released back into our communities instead of being transferred to ICE custody.

These billboards are important because we can no longer stand idly by while the public is being mislead about the role ICE plays in keeping the public safe. This campaign would be entirely unnecessary if local leaders would do their jobs and protect their communities by partnering with federal law enforcement.

When we first announced the success of Phase 1, I outlined how and why Operation Rise was a necessary action and how it plays an important part in fulfilling this administration’s promise to keep the American people safe and uphold the rule of law.

I believe that explanation bears repeating.

Put simply, Sanctuary City policies are a threat to the Homeland and put the safety of the American people in jeopardy so that certain local politicians can score cheap political points at the cost of Americans’ lives and safety.

Politicians and media pundits may attempt to spin and hide the truth, but the fact remains: Sanctuary City policies shield violent criminal aliens at the expense of American lives. There’s simply no way around it.

We are not asking for local authorities to enforce immigration laws. That’s our job. What we’re asking local authorities to do is to simply pick up the phone and call your fellow federal law enforcement partner to allow us to do the job Congress has mandated that we do.

But what happens when local politicians ignore the will of Congress and unilaterally decide not to cooperate with ICE? Well, it’s quite clear: Americans get hurt, and sometimes even worse, killed. Every criminal alien released back on the streets by a sanctuary jurisdiction is playing with the safety and security of the citizens they have sworn to protect. Every time a sanctuary jurisdiction disregards its solemn duty to protect its citizens, they are creating one more preventable crime.

Ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, this is about one thing and one thing only: preventing future crime and protecting Americans. Sanctuary jurisdictions are playing politics with your safety. Plain and simple.

There is a common misconception that Sanctuary City policies will somehow stop DHS and ICE from enforcing the law.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and I would encourage any political leader who believes this falsehood to read the law as it is written, not as they would like it to be.

Our legal obligation to protect American citizens from illegal aliens who rape, murder, and otherwise commit violent crimes against our communities does not stop at the borders of a so-called Sanctuary City. It encompasses all of America.

We have the legal right to investigate and detain those who break federal laws under our jurisdiction anywhere in the country—and we will use that right to fulfill our moral obligation to protect the citizens of this great country.

We will not be deterred by any local jurisdiction that refuses to cooperate with ICE. Any leader who believes this will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is sorely mistaken.

ICE will conduct more at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites. These of course will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests instead of much safer targeted arrests at jails. Again, all we ask for is a simple phone call so ICE can come to the jail and take custody of the criminal alien.

Sanctuary City residents should understand and continue to expect a more visible ICE presence in any jurisdiction covered by Operation Rise.

Let me make something clear: the criminals ICE lodges detainers against are not random illegal immigrants. ICE focuses its limited resources first and foremost on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety.

Nationally, approximately 90 percent of all individuals arrested by ICE during fiscal year 2019 either had a criminal conviction, a pending criminal charge, had criminally re-entered the U.S. after being previously removed, or were an immigration fugitive subject to a final order of removal.

Again, these are not everyday people—they are hardened criminals who threaten American communities and put American lives at risk.

Thus far, ICE’s efforts through Operation Rise have led to the arrest of 300 criminals. Phase 2 alone included more than 170 arrests, with 26 arrests occurring here in Philadelphia.

In one notable example, ICE arrested a 33-year-old Brazilian citizen in Philadelphia whose rap sheet includes aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of crime, terroristic threats, simple assault, and reckless endangerment of another person. In September 2020, ICE issued a detainer for this individual with the Philadelphia Police Department which was subsequently ignored, ultimately leading to his release back into the community. This person is now in ICE custody, where he will remain pending removal proceedings.

Operation Rise is proof-positive that we will never back down from enforcing the rule of law, with or without the cooperation of local political leaders.

Before I conclude, I want to once again thank Acting Director Pham and the men and women of ICE for not only tracking down and removing criminals from our streets, but also for educating the public about the danger they pose.

The time has long passed: Americans living in Sanctuary Cities deserve to know what kind of criminals their leaders are setting loose into their communities and we at DHS have an obligation to inform them for their own safety.

To any leaders who are enacting or proposing Sanctuary policies, I say once again: Do your job. Uphold and follow the Constitution. Obey the laws.  Protect your communities. Cease these harmful policies and allow your local law enforcement officers to partner with DHS to protect American citizens. Your country, community, and our people deserve better.

The first priority of political leaders and law enforcement organizations should be to protect the American people, the Homeland, and our communities.

With that, I would like to turn it over to Acting Director Pham who will provide more detail regarding the success of Operation Rise Phase 2. Director, the podium is yours.

Last Published Date: October 16, 2020
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