It was an early morning in May when Channel 9 reporter Shannon Butler dressed and headed to Winter Garden as Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agents tried to find a man to send back to Brazil to face his time in prison.
Deputy Field Office Director Garrett Ripa let us ride with him and his agents to show us what’s going on inside the federal department.
“There are two constants. The first constant is that the administration is always changing,” Ripa said. “The second constant: we are usually understaffed. So we may not take everyone down, but we do prioritize who we go after and take down.”
That means violent criminals top the list. The day we joined us, we were working to find a Brazilian citizen who was convicted of bodily harm resulting in death.
He was sentenced to four years behind bars, but left and lived under the US government’s radar until now, likely working for cash and/or having family support.
The feds did not tell us his name for his protection, but they told us that he entered the US with a non-immigrant status, somehow obtaining a visa. And he is not the only one.
According to ICE’s annual report, 46,396 immigrants were arrested with criminal records in 2022. In total, that group has 198,498 charges and convictions combined. That included 21,531 charges or convictions for assault, 8,164 for sexual offenses and sexual assault, 5,554 for weapons offenses, 1,501 for homicide-related offenses and 1,114 for kidnapping, describing the risk to public safety. And that’s just one agency. Add in US Customs and Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations and add nearly 50,000 more criminals in the US caught by the feds.
But those are just the ones caught. There are likely thousands more, and tracking them down isn’t always easy. Pressure, politics and public perception make it more difficult.
“And that’s why when you hear misinformation out there specifically about raids, you always hear that word used with what we do. And you can see, obviously, that’s the furthest thing from the truth about what we do. It is a targeted application. It takes a lot of work,” Ripa said.
That day, the target of their investigation was gone, but days later, the agents returned and captured the wanted man. He is now in custody going through deportation proceedings and will be back in Brazil to face his time in prison.