Venezuelan Gang Members Arrested Far from Border


() – Members of the Venezuelan prison gang, Tren de Aragua, are being apprehended far from the U.S. border after illegally entering through Texas.

This notorious gang is infamous for its involvement in murders, bribery, money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, and kidnappings for ransom. In March, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Maria Elvira Salazar, both Republicans from Florida, urged the president to officially designate Tren de Aragua as a Transnational Criminal Organization.

“Tren de Aragua is an invading criminal army from a Venezuelan prison that has spread brutality and chaos to U.S. cities and small towns,” they said. “If left unchecked, they will unleash an unprecedented reign of terror, similar to what has occurred in Central and South American communities, particularly in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. Their operations include murder, drug and human trafficking, sex crimes, extortion, and kidnapping, among other atrocities.”

Recently, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE-ERO) arrested members of Tren de Aragua in New York City and Chicago, but federal or local policies thwarted deportation efforts.

On May 10, ICE-ERO agents in New York City arrested Johan Jose Cardenas Silva, who was wanted by Peruvian authorities for conspiracy, assault, and aggravated theft. This arrest came two months after New York City Police Department officers detained him in March on various firearm and drug charges.

“This international fugitive mistakenly thought he could waltz into the United States to evade justice elsewhere and continue his criminal activities with impunity,” said Kenneth Genalo, ICE-ERO New York City Field Office Director. “His history of lawless behavior and membership in a violent international criminal organization clearly demonstrate that he is a serious threat to public safety.”

Despite Genalo’s assertions, Cardenas was released from an ICE detention center in October 2023.

After entering the U.S. illegally in Del Rio, Texas, Border Patrol agents detained him on October 4, 2022, and issued a notice and order of expedited removal.

On January 19, 2023, ICE-ERO agents in San Antonio issued him a notice to appear before an immigration judge. By March 2023, an immigration judge ordered his removal from the United States.

However, he was not deported. Instead, on October 5, 2023, he was released from ICE’s Stewart County Detention Center under an order of supervision to report to New York City; however, he never reported as directed,” according to ICE.

Cardenas did travel to New York City but was arrested on March 27 by NYPD officers and charged with “criminal possession of a weapon-second degree: loaded firearm; criminal possession of a weapon-second degree: loaded firearm on school grounds; criminal possession-controlled substance-5th: intent to sell; and act in manner injure child less than 17.”

On the same day, the Bronx Criminal Court arraigned and released him on his own recognizance despite his criminal history and before ICE-ERO could place another immigration detainer. “Due to New York state’s Protect Our Courts Act, ERO New York City was precluded from arresting Cardenas upon his release,” ICE said.

Cardenas reportedly committed additional crimes and was again arrested. On April 1, the Nassau County Police Department arrested and charged him with “grand larceny in the fourth degree: value property greater than $1,000 and petit larceny.” Within a month, a district court convicted him and sentenced him to 60 days in jail.

He was detained in a county correctional facility until ICE arrested and removed him. He is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings, with ICE agents receiving notification that Cardenas was an international fugitive wanted by Peruvian authorities under an arrest warrant from October 2018.

In Chicago, ICE-ERO agents arrested another Venezuelan Tren de Aragua member in March, who was the subject of a Chicago Police Department investigation for a drive-by shooting in the Little Italy neighborhood.

This arrest followed his initial apprehension for illegally entering the country near Eagle Pass, Texas, in 2022.

Border Patrol agents first detained Adelvis Rodriguez-Carmona near Eagle Pass on July 7, 2022, placing him into removal proceedings. He was then released into the country on his own recognizance and ordered to appear before an immigration judge, which he failed to do. One year later, on July 7, 2023, an immigration judge issued a final order for his removal in absentia.

By February 24, 2024, Cicero Police Department officers in Illinois arrested him for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, not having a firearms identification card, driving without a license or insurance, and possessing adult-use cannabis in a motor vehicle. He was later released.

Just a few weeks later, on March 11, ICE-ERO officers arrested him without incident. He is currently detained in ICE’s Dodge County Detention Facility in Juneau, Wisconsin, pending immigration removal proceedings.

“This Venezuelan noncitizen represented a significant threat to the residents of our communities,” ICE-ERO Chicago Assistant Field Office Director Raymond Hernandez said. “Not only is he a validated member of a transnational street gang, but he also displayed a willingness to unlawfully discharge a firearm in public. ERO Chicago will continue to prioritize public safety by removing such threats from our streets.”

Rubio and Salazar warned, “Tren de Aragua has plunged communities into chaos” in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, and Peru. “They have sown fear and instability, undermining the credibility of government institutions, as well as the safety and security of innocent civilians. … We cannot permit our cities to become battlegrounds for such organizations, nor can we allow our citizens to suffer at their hands.”

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