The arrests, made on the evening of June 4, are part of an ongoing initiative called "Operation Community Shield" by the national gang unit of ICE, which works with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
Arrests were made beginning at 5 p.m. at homes in Morgan Hill, San Jose, San Martin and Gilroy, said Joseph Vincent, assistant special agent in charge of the operation.
The majority of the people arrested were members of the Varrio Sur Rifa clique of the Sureno street gang, while one man arrested was part of the Abstract Minds clique of the Norteno gang, Vincent said late last week.
A female associate of a local street gang who had previously been convicted of carrying a loaded gun in a public place was also one of the people taken into custody. A .38-caliber snub-nose revolver was also recovered during the operation.
All 17 arrests happened to be of foreign nationals, and at least five will face prosecution on state or federal criminal charges, such as re-entry after deportation and various drug violations, according to Vincent.
The other suspects were arrested on administrative immigration violations and placed in removal proceedings. They will be held in ICE custody and scheduled for a deportation hearing before an immigration judge.
Vincent said the arrests made last Thursday will likely lead to more arrests in the future of additional gang members in the region.
"I don't think it's any mystery that there's a proliferation of gangs in the South Bay," he said.
ICE received substantial assistance from the Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments during the operation, according to Vincent.
Gilroy police Sgt. Jim Gillio said eight people were arrested in that city.
Since the start of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 13,000 gang members and associates linked to more than 900 different gangs. More than 150 of those arrests involved gang leaders, according to ICE.
To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at (866) 347-2423 or visit www.ice.gov.