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112 immigrants with criminal pasts arrested in four-day ICE operation in Southern California

112 immigrants with criminal pasts arrested in four-day ICE operation in Southern California
An immigrant without legal status picked up by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations Team in an August 2015 raid. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

More than 100 immigrants with criminal convictions were arrested during a four-day sweep in Southern California, federal officials announced Thursday.

The operation spanned Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and targeted 112 immigrants who had been released after serving previous sentences — but who could not be held for deportation under state law.

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The arrested were immigrants who were involved in gang activity or had three or more misdemeanor convictions or a conviction for a "significant" misdemeanor such as a DUI. Some of those arrested this week were in the country legally, officials said.

Though everyone who was arrested is subject to deportation under federal law for their previous crimes, most were released back into the country after serving their past sentence because of a state law that took effect in January 2014, said David Marin, deputy field office director for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's office in Southern California.

The so-called Trust Act bars local law enforcement from detaining defendants with most minor convictions past their release dates in order to hand them over to ICE, but it allows jurisdictions to turn over people with past felony convictions.

But some cities, like San Francisco, where Kathryn Steinle was fatally shot by an immigrant with a criminal record who was in the country illegally, do not take that step. Other jurisdictions notify ICE when a convict is going to be released, but do not hold them until agents are there to pick them up.

"Hopefully we get there in time," Marin said.

Among those arrested this week was Carlos David Martin Ojeda, 46, a sex offender convicted of attempted lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old. Others included:

  • A 64-year-old Mexican national in Riverside County who was convicted of attempted murder of a peace officer in 1996.
  • A 46-year-old Tongan man previous convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.
  • A 37-year-old Salvadoran man in Los Angeles with burglary and DUI convictions.
  • A 45-year-old Mexican national in Los Angeles previously convicted of assault to commit rape and failure to register as a sex offender.

Los Angeles County had the largest number of arrestees with 56, followed by San Bernardino County with 16 and Orange County with 13. Riverside, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties each had 12, 11, and 4 arrestees, respectively, ICE officials said.

"Every single one of these persons came here legally or illegally, and they committed a crime," Marin said. "We're a part of the community. We want to contribute to public safety."

At least one person will be prosecuted for re-entering the country illegally after having been deported previously, Marin said. That person faces up to 20 years in prison, officials said.

The nationality of those arrested breaks down as follows: 89 were from Mexico, seven from El Salvador, five from Guatemala, two each from Belize, Honduras and Vietnam, and one each from Egypt, the Philippines, Tonga, the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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