Immigration officials on Wednesday announced the arrest of 150 people in an operation in the Los Angeles area this week, including a man with a conviction for attempted murder and a woman with seven DUI charges.
The operation, which began Sunday and was completed Tuesday, targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminals and individuals who have violated immigration laws, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Of those arrested, 90% had criminal convictions, according to ICE.
“These are targeted enforcement operations and our goal is really to enhance public safety," said Thomas Giles, acting director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE in L.A. “We focus on those that are considered a danger to our community.”
In a release announcing the arrests, the agency criticized Senate Bill 54, California’s “sanctuary state” law.
According to ICE, about 40% of those apprehended had previously been released by local law enforcement agencies even though immigration officials had lodged detainers against them asking the arresting agency for notification prior to their release.
“SB54 … restricts law enforcement from turning these individuals over in a secure environment to us,” Giles said. “I would prefer to have my officers in the jails working these cases and getting these people in that environment, as opposed to out in the community.”
A 36-year-old Mexican national had been arrested and released by local law enforcement agencies three times this year despite ICE having a detainer lodged, according to the agency. He has been convicted of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, failure to register as a sex offender, driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance, according to ICE.
Another Mexican national had seven DUI charges in a little over three years, according to the agency. ICE stated that it had lodged detainers twice, but the woman was released from custody.
Arrests took place in L.A., Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The larger-scale operation is just the latest by ICE. In June, the L.A. field office made 162 arrests. Of the 157 men and five women arrested, most of them — 129 — were Mexican nationals, according to ICE. The agency said almost 90% of the people arrested during that operation had criminal convictions.
Earlier in the year, agents made 212 arrests over a four-day period.
Giles emphasized that targeted enforcement operations happen every day, but that agents are not “randomly questioning people or picking up people.”
“The community members and the immigrant community, they don’t have a general understanding of what we do. They think we’re out there doing raids and sweeps and just picking up people at will,” Giles said. “Everyone we’re going after, our guys spent many hours of surveillance and doing checks on these individuals trying to locate these people.”
Immigrant rights advocates have expressed fear that operations like these will result in the collateral arrests of immigrants who were not targeted — something that has happened.
But ICE officials have blamed sanctuary policies that they say have pushed the agency out of jails and forced it to conduct more enforcement in neighborhoods — at a greater risk to law enforcement and the public.