Last week, the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in partnership with Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) teams, arrested nearly 500 people from 42 countries in a national operation that lasted four days.
Nearly 167 of those arrested were taken into custody in Southern California, including at least 66 people from the communities of Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo collectively.
ICE claimed the Operation Safe City raids targeted cities and regions where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected immigration violators, or jurisdictions where ICE detainers are not honored. In California, ICE must take custody within 48 hours or seek a judge’s order for an individual to be held longer.
The ICE raids come on the heels of an August 16 announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that sanctuary cities that fail to fully abide by Federal immigration laws would jeopardize their access to certain Federal grant money as a way to force compliance with the president’s reversal of sanctuary city policies made shortly after he took office in January.
In a printed statement about the raids, ICE noted, “Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration.” Acting ICE Director Tom Homan said, “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
In commenting about last week’s raids, although ICE claimed it merely sought immigrants who had criminal convictions, only some of those picked up had convictions for crimes related to violence. Others were picked up for drug offenses, and at least 25 percent had convictions for driving under the influence. Of the 498 arrested, only 317 had previous felony convictions.
According to ICE, some of those arrested will face federal criminal prosecutions for illegal entry and illegal re-entry after removal. The arrestees who are not federally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of removal, or who returned to the United States illegally after being removed, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
In meantime, as concerns over the president’s aggressive action toward immigrants has continued to escalate, several outlets have reported that many immigration detainees are having difficulty consulting with legal representatives, due to the remote location of most immigration detention facilities. In Southern California, for example, immigration facilities are located in Adelanto and Lancaster.