U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested more than 680 immigrants in the past week as part of a nationwide enforcement surge targeting people with criminal histories, according to a press release from Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday.
Kelly said in his press release that “approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.”
The ICE agency has described the nationwide operations as “routine, daily, targeted operations” targeting “public safety threats” like criminal immigrants, gang members, and people who have been previously deported.
But immigration activists say this week’s raids aren’t limited to safety threats — they have also targeted people who have changed their lives around and contributed to their communities, as well as people without proper documentation who have been swept up in “collateral” arrests but have not committed any other crimes. In one case, the ICE agency charged one immigrant as a “gang member” because of old speeding tickets and tattoos.
Enforcement operations took place simultaneously across 11 states, including California, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Missouri.
Western region ICE officials said that 161 immigrants were detained in the Los Angeles area across six counties. Other agents arrested 40 people in the New York City area, according to an ICE fact sheet. And more than 200 immigrants were arrested in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas, and Missouri, an unnamed ICE spokesperson told ThinkProgress.
Although an ICE spokesperson told ThinkProgress via email that the enforcement operation concluded on Friday, there’s some evidence the raids continued through the weekend. A source driving on Interstate 66 near Centreville, Virginia told ThinkProgress that he had seen seven cop cars stopping a van with a group of Latino men as late as Saturday afternoon.
Trump was quick to take credit for the crackdown.
The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2017
The ICE agency, on the other hand, says the recent sweeps were not a direct result of President Donald Trump’s policies.
David Marin, ICE’s director of Enforcement and Removal Operations in Los Angeles, said on a press call Friday night that last week’s enforcement operation was in the works before Trump took office. He emphasized that the operations were “normal” and “on par” with other raids carried out two to three times a year in the name of public safety. The New York Times also reported that the New York operation was “part of a national action that was planned several weeks ago.”
Immigration sweeps were routine under President Barack Obama, who earned the title “deporter-in-chief” from activists who criticized his decision to carry out millions of deportations throughout his two terms in office.
But activists worry that this particularly large sweep, conducted just a few weeks after Trump took office, is a sign of how aggressive the president will be toward undocumented immigrants throughout the country.
Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration policy broadened the spectrum of crimes that can be punished by deportation, sparking concern among immigrants, advocates, and city officials who worry that more people will be rounded up even if they don’t have serious criminal histories. One of Trump’s first deportations, for example, was an undocumented mother of two U.S. citizen children who had lived in the country for more than two decades. And Los Angeles-based ICE officials said that five immigrants without criminal records were detained this past week because of their undocumented status.
Trump’s orders also deputize local law enforcement immigration officials to detain immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally and hold them for possible deportation proceedings on behalf of the federal government.
The piece has been updated to include new statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security agency showing that the ICE agency detained more than 680 people, rather than the original 600 figure.