CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Every day millions of people are hiding in plain sight. They see police and police see them, but nothing seems to happen. However, more may be happening behind the scenes than most people think.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that nearly 11 million people lived in the United States illegally last year.
They are here. They are in the workforce. They are neighbors and most likely, they are here to stay because the government does not have the resources to go after them all.
"Washington has been clear about our goal and that's to focus on the criminal aliens and those who pose the greatest threat to you, I or anyone else in the community," said the Regional Director for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Barbara Gonzalez.
Gonzalez says their strategy of going after the worst of the worst is working. According to statistics, last year 389,000 illegal aliens were removed from the country -- about one-third of them were criminals.
However, deporting them does not mean they won't find their way back.
In June, one man from the Dominican Republic was found dead at the Port of Charleston after stowing away in a shipping container. Two others survived the four-day trip at sea. All of them had been in the US before.
"Those were individuals actually convicted for drug trafficking offenses out of new York. And they were trying to come into the United States illegally," Gonzalez said. "They were convicted felons who tried to come in through the freighters because clearly they couldn't come back lawfully."
When illegal immigrants break the law, officials are hoping local police agencies like the Charleston County Sheriff's Office can help identify them, enter them into a federal database and set the wheels in motion for their removal.
"The benefit of these deputized officers placing them in removal proceedings is that while they are facing their criminal charges, we can also do the administrative immigration charges which is a reduction on the burden of taxpayers monies," Gonzalez said. "The goal is if you can have those individuals ordered deported by the time their criminal charges are adjudicated and by the time they complete their sentences if their convicted then you're really saving a lot of taxpayer dollars."
Another way ICE is battling illegal immigration is by going after the people who hire them.
ICE offers a voluntary program for employers who want to go above and beyond to make sure all of their workers are legal. So far, only one business in the entire state -- located in Myrtle Beach -- has signed up for the program.
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