Federal immigration officials plan new sweeps targeting migrants with orders for removal from the United States beginning Sunday, with about 140 individuals targeted in Southern California, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Friday.
It’s part of a larger national operation that federal officials said is targeting 2,000 people who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.
In an interview with The Times, Moore said that his department will play no role in the arrests and that he’s concerned the federal action could heighten fears in parts of L.A.
“We know how unsettling and scary this is for the community,” Moore said. “We are not an extension of ICE…. I do worry about the intimidation it can create.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva voiced similar dissension.
“I strongly oppose President Trump’s threats of mass deportations,” he said. “His actions are irresponsible and unnecessary if in fact the president is truly concerned with removing violent undocumented felons to ensure your public safety.
“We cannot ensure public safety if undocumented residents are afraid to report a crime,” he added.
Immigrants rights groups and others have been bracing for new sweeps after the president threatened action this week.
Trump tweeted Monday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would start deporting “millions of illegal aliens” next week. But it’s unclear whether mass arrests will actually occur, because the agency lacks the resources it would need to remove more than a small fraction of the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
Local law enforcement officials believe those numbers will be much smaller.
An administration official said the effort would focus on people who had been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remained at large in the country.
Trump has threatened a series of increasingly drastic actions as he tries to stem the flow of Central American migrants crossing the southern border, which has risen dramatically on his watch.
Local law enforcement agencies have been odds with Trump over his immigration crackdown, saying it makes it more difficult to get those here illegally to cooperate in criminal investigations out of fear they will be deported.
“A person’s immigration [status] isn’t a police matter,” Moore said.
The chief said his department has gotten some information from ICE about the plans but is still seeking more details.
The LAPD said it is reaching out to “community stakeholders” to make clear the department won’t be participating in the action.
The Los Angeles raids would be part of a larger nationwide crackdown, but it’s unclear which other cities might be involved.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said his city’s Police Department was not taking part in the raids and told migrants to know their rights.
He encouraged residents to “inform themselves about their rights and remain vigilant for ICE agents entering a home or business without consent or a valid warrant.” He asked residents to report the location of ICE activity; description of ICE vehicles; and any badge numbers, photos or other information to an immigrant rights group called the Rapid Response Network “so that we can gather the information and, where appropriate, take legal action.”
Other California officials slammed the planned action.
“The President’s proposed raids are cruel, misdirected and are creating unnecessary fear and anxiety. I want Californians to know they have legal rights and protections, regardless of their immigration status,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement.
California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement Friday that the sweeps could have “a profound effect on access to justice in our state.”
“Enforcement of immigration laws that upset the delicate checks and balances set up by our Founders undermines our democracy,” she said. “Our three branches of government are co-equal; our local, state, and federal governments have overlapping authority. Each branch and each entity should take care not to act in a way that undermines the trust of those who rely on us to uphold the rule of law.”
An administration official said Tuesday that more than 1 million migrants face deportation orders and “remain at large,” although some immigration advocates said that figure appeared exaggerated. In any case, many migrants facing deportation have long hidden from federal agents, and it’s unclear how many of them ICE agents would be able to find or process.
ICE is unlikely to quickly locate and remove vast numbers of migrants, and subsequent court hearings and potential appeals would further strain its resources. The overburdened law enforcement agency often is responsible for transporting individuals to immigration courts and detaining them as their legal battles drag on.