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Immigration White House

Homeland Security tried to downplay immigration raids as routine. Now Trump says they're unprecedented

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

After nationwide immigration raids this month in which more than 680 people were arrested, the Department of Homeland Security issued a nothing-to-see-here statement downplaying the sweeps as strictly ordinary.

"ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years," the agency said last week , referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But President Trump had a different take Thursday, labeling the raids an unprecedented enforcement effort.

"You see what's happening at the border. All of a sudden for the first time, we're getting gang members out," he said before a roundtable on manufacturing. "We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before."

Under President Obama, deportations peaked at 400,000 people in 2012, touching off widespread criticism from immigration advocates, which prompted Homeland Security to scale back deportations.

Last year, deportations fell to 240,000 as the Obama administration focused on targets similar to what Trump described in the raids conducted under his authority: criminals, repeat immigration violators and recent arrivals.

Trump also called the sweeps this month a "military operation," even though no military resources were involved and the White House has pushed back aggressively on reports that the administration was considering seeking National Guard forces to assist in deportations.

Homeland Security said the raids were conducted by ICE agents, U.S. marshals and state and local law enforcement agencies.

"What has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before, and all of the things — much of that is people that are here illegally," Trump said. "They're rough and they're tough, but they're not tough like our people. So we're getting them out."

Of the 680 arrests last week, 161 occurred in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. Three-quarters of those detained in the Los Angeles-area sweeps were from Mexico.

Trump noted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly traveled to Mexico this week on a "tough trip."

"We have to be treated fairly by Mexico," Trump said.

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