Federal immigration authorities have arrested almost 200 people in southern California as part of a five-day operation targeting immigrants who have committed crimes or who were in the country illegally, USA officials said Thursday. Fugitive Operations officers made 188 arrests in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, targeting "at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants, and immigration fugitives", according to a news release from the agency.
The White House supported this claim with examples of those seized in ICE operations this year, including hardened repeat offenders from gangs like MS-13 caught in last month;s Operation Community Shield against gang members that yielded 1,378 arrests. Of those, 43 were drug offenses, 30 DUIs, 27 domestic violence, 15 sex crimes, and 12 battery charges, among others, according to the department.
"Some of these unsafe individuals had been released to the streets instead of being turned over to ICE or our detainers, which compromises the safety of the homeland that ICE officers strive to protect every day", ERO Philadelphia Acting Field Office Director Jennifer Ritchey said in the release.
ICE representatives said the "expanded enforcement operation" occurred over five days and spanned six counties, including Santa Barbara. According to the agency, the arrestees consisted of 177 men and 11 women and included nationals from 11 countries - Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Armenia, Honduras, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Yugoslavia and Cambodia. Individuals who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the country illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal. In the Trump administration, they are able to arrest anyone in violation of immigration law. And the large majority of those in custody are from Mexico.
At least eight people arrested now face federal prosecution for re-entry after deportation, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, officials said in the statement.
Los Angeles proper carried the most arrests of any city where ICE officers apprehended, with 26 instances.
The raids are seen as US President Donald Trump's attempt to deliver on his campaign pledge of deporting as many as three million undocumented immigrants. Seventy-three percent of those arrested during that period this year are convicted criminals.
"His daughter is active-duty military, his son-in-law is active duty military", said Jennie Pasquarella, a director of immigrants' rights at the ACLU.
Anyone not being criminally prosecuted will be processed for deportation, ICE officials said.