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World & Nation

ICE targeted thousands in raids, but so far has only arrested 35

ICE
An ICE agent surveys a Montebello neighborhood in April 2017.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

An immigration sweep targeting thousands of people nationwide resulted in only 35 arrests, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday, suggesting that the widely publicized advance notice of the raids, including prominent mention by President Trump, led many people to take actions to avoid being caught.

The sweep, called Operation Border Resolve, was focused on more than 2,000 families with final orders of removal by an immigration judge. The numbers so far have fallen far short of the target.

The acting director of ICE discussed the numbers during a call with reporters, citing the wide notice given across the country.

“There were advocates, there were people in Congress sitting here giving instructions to people illegally in the country and telling them how to avoid detection,” Matthew Albence said. “There’s no way for us to quantify what impact that had, but you couldn’t turn on any TV station anywhere in this country for several weeks without this being one of the lead topics.”

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Those targeted had cases that were part of an accelerated docket, in which recent arrivals were allowed to quickly present their case in front of an immigration judge, according to Albence. Of those, Albence said, 85% did not show up for their first hearing and were ordered removed in absentia.

ICE asked families in February to turn themselves in, but only 65 reported to agency offices, according to Albence.

Of those arrested, 18 were members of families and 17 were collateral arrests, meaning they were not on the target list but were present when arrests were being made, according to ICE. Albence called the operation the “first iteration” and said it would be continuing.

To explain the low arrest numbers, Albence cited ICE’s suspension of enforcement operations in the New Orleans area because of a tropical storm. The agency also backed out of some operations in which ICE agents were being watched by locals, to avoid confrontation, he said.

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In a case out of Tennessee, advocates and neighbors rallied around a man’s vehicle to prevent ICE agents from making an arrest. ICE agents eventually left without arresting their target.

ICE will continue to go after tens of thousands of family units who are in the country illegally and who have removal orders, Albence said, including those who have escaped detention in the latest operation.

“We’re patient, we’ll continue to pursue these cases,” he said. “They may have escaped detection for a short period of time, but we’re going to continue to be out there working those cases.”

The operation, forecast by Trump as a major roundup, was expected to target several major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Atlanta, Baltimore and Houston.

ICE would not detail where arrests actually took place.

Another operation, targeting those with final orders of removal within the last five years and who had criminal convictions or histories, netted 899 arrests. In the operation — which took place between May 13 and July 11 — 605 of those arrests were convicted criminals and 93 had pending criminal charges, according to Albence.

Albence also detailed a worksite enforcement surge, which led to 3,282 notices of inspection delivered to businesses throughout 50 states and Puerto Rico informing them that they would be audited.

In a testy exchange with reporters, Albence also objected to the use of the word “raid” to describe the operations, calling it “a disservice to everybody that is involved in this process.”

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“Taking a targeted enforcement action against a specific individual who is in violation of the law and has a warrant issued by an immigration judge is not a raid,” he said. “A raid brings all sorts of emotions that conjure images of indiscriminate enforcement actions. That is not what we do.”

“I guarantee you if we were out there doing raids and we had officers running all over the place picking up targets indiscriminately you would have videos all over YouTube.”


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