Congress passed the landmark USA PATRIOT Act in response to 9/11. Pursuant to the war on terrorism, and in support of this act, several measures were taken to protect our homeland. The Absconder Apprehension Initiative was established, making the apprehension of absconders, or fugitives, a priority within the Department of Homeland Security. On February 25, 2002, the National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP) was officially established under the auspices of the Office of Detention and Removal.
The primary mission of NFOP is to identify, locate, apprehend, process and remove fugitive aliens from the United States, with the highest priority placed on those fugitives who have been convicted of crimes. Furthermore, NFOP’s goal is to eliminate the backlog of fugitives and ensure that the number of aliens deported equals the number of final orders of removal issued by the immigration courts in any given year.
The NFOP Fugitive Operations Teams strategically deployed around the country work solely on those cases identified as fugitives, and attempt to locate and apprehend those persons, who will ultimately be removed from the United States.
The NFOP serves as a resolution unit, assisting in the preparation of cases for entry into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. NFOP also serves as a clearinghouse for all leads regarding fugitive aliens. Through the use of command centers, NFOP forwards “hot leads” (information identifying the possible locations of these absconders) to the appropriate Fugitive Operations Team for resolution. These “hot leads” are based on information from other law enforcement entities, both internal and external, as well as on information gathered through internal intelligence assets.
On May 14, 2003, ICE’s “Most Wanted” criminal alien list was unveiled. This list features aliens convicted of committing serious, mostly violent crimes in the United States. Each has a final order of removal, but had absconded from ICE when ordered to report for removal. In an effort to broaden this program, the most wanted list is posted on the ICE website at www.ice.gov. This enables the public to view the list and call in tips.
The NFOP training course is conducted at the ICE Academy located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), providing the ICE officer with the tools necessary to locate and apprehend fugitive aliens. A major focus of the course is to enable participants to effectively utilize Internet, database and other sources of information to locate where a fugitive lives, visits and/or works.
In order to effectively meet its goal of removing all fugitive aliens, ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal (DRO), and in particular the NFOP, need the assistance of all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. One of the ways that outside law enforcement agencies can assist the NFOP is by participating in local Joint Fugitive Task Forces. Task forces already exist in several areas, with ICE officers participating. Where no task force exists, NFOP will seek to establish one among all of the agencies within the jurisdiction. Law enforcement entities that wish to participate with ICE in these task forces, or are interested in providing other assistance to the agency , may contact the local Fugitive Operations Team at the local DRO field office.