About 160 immigrants here illegally were taken into custody as part of a five-day "targeted enforcement operation" in Southern California by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, authorities said. Immigrants rights advocates caught wind of the raids yesterday, immediately tying them to President Trump's vow to deport millions of undocumented newcomers.
Maria Teresa Borden, a spokeswoman for the group Red Mexicana de Líderes y Organizaciones Migrantes (RedMex), said that while ICE in the past has been more transparent about such operations, it has so far refused to give immigration attorneys a list of those arrested. "We want more information on who they're detaining and why," she says. "They haven't let us know.
"ICE claims that these things it's doing are routine, and they are part of their regular work, but our community is telling us otherwise," she says. "We tend to believe what our community tells us."
ICE's slow release of information about the sweeps is increasing insecurity among immigrants. In L.A. County, an estimated one in 10 people is undocumented.
The federal agency did release some information today. ICE officials appeared to reject the claim that the six-county sweep was part of a new push by the Trump administration to eject the undocumented. In an email, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said there were "many ... inaccurate claims surrounding this operation." An ICE statement described reports of immigration checkpoints and "random sweeps" as "false" and "irresponsible."
"While this week’s operation was an enforcement surge, the focus was no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis," according to ICE's statement today.
The agency says the Monday-through-Friday operation swept up 150 people with criminal histories and at least five others who were under removal orders or who had been deported before. Another five or so were collared, though it's not clear why. "Many of the arrestees had prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and assault," according to ICE.
Those caught up in the 95 percent male sweep included a Mara Salvatrucha gang member in Huntington Park wanted for alleged extortion in El Salvador, a Brazilian in L.A. suspected of cocaine trafficking in his homeland and an Australian in West Hollywood convicted of lewd acts with a child, ICE officials said.
The raids came to the attention of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) yesterday because immigrants were phoning in reports of federal arrests in Santa Paula, Oxnard, Van Nuys, San Bernardino and Downey, according to the nonprofit. Attorneys rushed to a federal detention center and advocates staged impromptu protests outside the downtown federal building last night.
The Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) issued a statement today advising that immigrants have the right to remain silent if confronted by agents and that they should seek an attorney's help if they're questioned. The statement even suggests people walk away from agents, calmly, if they're not being detained or arrested.
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A Los Angeles woman named Marlene Mosqueda told reporters today that her noncriminal father was arrested in the sweeps, ostensibly because he has a years-old deportation order. "They took my parents away,'" she said. "They took my family away."
ICE states those suspects not recommended for criminal prosecution will likely face "removal in the near future."