I TEAM: Local feds targeting underground networks in immigration cases

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CLEVELAND –  The FOX 8 I TEAM has found the US Attorney for the northern district of Ohio is prosecuting a soaring number of cases of people caught in the US illegally after they have been deported in the past.

And US Attorney Justin Herdman said investigators are trying to go after underground networks or organizations helping immigrants cross US borders illegally and find jobs.

In 2016, the local US Attorney’s office prosecuted just 11 cases of illegal reentry. But this year that same office is on pace to prosecute 8 times as many people arrested on your streets despite being deported before.

Some of the cases are growing out of recent raids at area businesses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. Others include the man the I TEAM recently exposed. Antonio Barrera had been deported three times from the US. But he just got sent to prison for sexually abusing a juvenile relative in Cleveland.

Herdman said his office really wants to break up underground networks moving people across US borders and into areas such as Northeast Ohio.

He added, “We’re always trying to work on bigger investigations. There are certainly people who are illegal aliens employed in our district, and it’s not by happenstance, and it’s not a coincidence that they’re here.”

Someone prosecuted by the Feds for coming into this country after being deported earlier could actually stay in this country a little longer. They could serve time in prison for that and for any other crimes before getting thrown out again.

In fact, Judge Nancy Russo sent Barrera to prison for 15 years for the sex assault. Now he could face more time for the immigration charges.

The crackdown locally and nationally has led to protests in Cleveland and in cities around the country. They’ve put a spotlight on families caught in the middle.

Behind it all, Herdman believes the focus should be on the law. He pointed out, “We’re not enforcing our laws if we don’t prosecute these people who abuse the system time again.”

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