WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- Nearly 600 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions have been arrested in a federal sweep across the southeastern United States, immigration officials said.
John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said most of those arrested in the three-day operation will be deported, but 22 may face prosecution for illegally entering the country after they had been sent home before, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday.
"These are not the kind of people that we want walking our streets or living in our communities," Morton told reporters.
Authorities made most of the arrests in Florida, Puerto Rico and Atlanta, ICE said in a statement. Those arrested came from 60 different countries in Latin America, Asia, Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
All but 24 of those arrested had been released from jail or prison without having been turned over to federal immigration for removal from the country, as required by law, Morton said.
He said estimates suggest as many as 1 million illegal immigrants with U.S. convictions are in the country.
"There are a lot of people who don't come to our attention and custody," Morton said.