Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Tuesday repatriated a member of a rebel forces group involved in human rights violations back to his native country.
Escorted by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officers, 56-year-old Alexander Mentol Zinnah boarded an ICE deportation flight and was handed over to Liberian law enforcement authorities, according to a press release from the agency. The removal marked the latest significant deportation by ICE, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic that has scaled back most air travel.
Before arriving in the United States, Zinnah was a military and law enforcement official under former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is serving a 50-year prison sentence for human rights abuses.
A probe by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) unit first revealed that he was a member of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a rebel organization led by Taylor that committed a number of human rights abuses — including massacres, kidnappings and torture. Zinnah had also been a member of the Liberian National Police and even served as a commander during Taylor’s time in office.
HSI arrested Zinnah in 2017 for immigration violations and for violating his parole into the country. The Liberian national had attempted to fight the deportation order.
A U.S. immigration court slapped Zinnah with a final order of removal in May 2019. He lodged an appeal of the decision, but that request was shot down by the Board of Immigration appeals in January, and his request to be released from custody was also dismissed in February.
ICE touted its success in removing hardened criminals from the United States.
“Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 450 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes,” read a statement from the agency. “During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and/order physically removed from the United States more than 1,050 known or suspected human rights violators.” (RELATED: Ilhan Omar Repeats Demand For A Ban On Deportations)
The statement continued: “Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 167 such individuals from the United States.”
ICE’s investigation into Zinnah was aided by the agency’s Human Rights Violators and War Crime Centers, which assists ICE’s ability to “identify, track and prosecute” human rights violators by utilizing a group of attorneys, agents, research specialists and others.
While the coronavirus pandemic has forced most airline companies to restrict flights, the Trump administration has not allowed the crisis to deter its deportation processes. President Donald Trump threatened visa sanctions earlier in April on any country that refuses to allow deported citizens from the United States.
The president issued a memo ordering the chief of Homeland Security to notify the State Department of any government that refuses to accept deportees. The visa sanctions would make it nearly impossible for any country’s citizens to obtain a U.S. visa.
The deportation flights have also proved paramount in the State Department’s efforts to rescue stranded Americans abroad. These ICE Air Operations, on their return flights, have brought more than 1,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents back home.
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