U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Foreign nationals were arrested on Feb. 7, 2017 in Los Angeles during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens.

By Susan Abram, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 02/10/17 – 8:26 PM PST |

The day after reports of immigration sweeps spread through six Southern California counties, federal authorities acknowledged Friday that there was a “surge” in the number of people detained, but almost all were convicted felons or those with multiple misdemeanors living in the country illegally, they said.

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement clarified a previous statement that had been sent out Thursday, which called the sweeps ordinary. But they also pushed back on activists’ reports of widespread random raids, reports that officials called “dangerous” 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,” ICE officials said in a statement Friday.

In their statement, ICE officials said 160 foreign nationals were arrested from 55 communities in Southern California, including in Van Nuys, San Bernardino, Downey, Santa Paula and Oxnard.

The five-day targeted enforcement operation began on Monday throughout Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, among others, and was aimed at undocumented criminals, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives, ICE officials said. Of those detained, 151 had felony criminal histories ranging from child sex crimes to weapons charges to assaults. Those arrested — 95 percent of whom were men — were from a dozen countries. ICE officials said Friday they did not know how many of those detained had been deported.

• PHOTOS: Officials and immigrants speak out against ICE raids

Among those they listed was a Salvadoran national who was an MS-13 gang member arrested in Huntington Park and wanted in his native country for aggravated extortion; a Brazilian national wanted for cocaine trafficking; and an Australian in West Hollywood who was previously convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child.

It was unclear if the sweep was part of President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance on illegal immigration, but similar raids occurred in Atlanta, New York, Chicago and other cities, ICE officials acknowledged.

David Marin, field office director for ICE, said he could not comment on Trump’s executive order, but said it takes weeks, even months, to coordinate such enforcement operations. A similar operation took place last summer, Marin said, adding that California’s policies make it difficult to deport criminals who are in the country illegally.

“Dangerous criminals who should be swiftly deported are being released in our community,” he said. “This operation is on par with similar operations. We do this two or three times a year.”
Advertisement

The sweep seemed atypical when compared with those under the Obama administration, officials with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, or CHIRLA, said during a Friday morning news conference at their office in the Westlake area. Under President Obama, 3 million people were deported, but there was more transparency in the process, CHIRLA officials said.

• RELATED STORY: Reports of ICE immigration ‘sweeps’ spark LA protest, demands for answers

Angelica Salas, executive director for CHIRLA, disputed ICE’s assertion that criminals were the focus on the sweeps, adding that ICE had not been forthright with the community, attorneys and organizations, and she vowed her organization would continue to press them.

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There is a deficit of trust on (Department of Homeland Security) officials who insisted for hours on hours that nothing out of the ordinary had taken place in Southern California during the past few days,” Salas said in a statement.

“Make no mistake about it: These sweeps are directly linked to President Trump’s ‘new normal’ where criminalizing and dehumanizing immigrants is convenient to violate their due process and facilitate their deportation,” she said.

CHIRLA attorney Karla Navarrete said that when she went Thursday to help a client held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, she was given no information on how many people had been detained, even when she pressed officials.

“They said, ‘things have changed now,’ ” she said. “This is not the way it goes anymore.”

She said the officers told her: “This is the law, and we have our orders from the president.”

State Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León said he was pleased ICE released more information, but he said there was a disconnect between information provided by the agency ICE on Thursday and what was disclosed Friday, and he called on the Trump administration to explain it.

“Let me be clear, we want to work together to get violent felons out of our neighborhoods; however, we remain deeply concerned with the new administration’s recent decision to prioritize nearly every undocumented resident in California for deportation, and their apparent inability to accurately inform the public of their operations in a timely manner,” he said.

• RELATED STORY: More undocumented immigrants live in Southern California than anywhere else in U.S.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Friday that he made it clear to ICE officials that he wanted more transparency about ICE operations and the status of all L.A. residents who may have been arrested.

“Angelenos should not have to fear raids that are disruptive to their peace of mind and bring unnecessary anxiety to our homes, schools and workplaces,” Garcetti said. “The administration should take a just, humane and sensible approach that does not cause pain for people who only want to live their lives and raise their families in the communities they call home.”

In their statement, ICE officials said those “who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country.”

Others who were not being criminally prosecuted will be “processed administratively for removal from the United States,” according to the statement. “The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.”

That the sweeps were conducted at all were unusual in and of itself, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform or FAIR, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that backs immigration reform and laws.

“It’s different in that in the last eight years, the law hasn’t been enforced,” Mehlman said. “There’s nothing in the law that says you have to be a felon to be deported. Based on (the ICE statement), they were targeting people with criminal records. The government has a perfect right to enforce the law.”

He said the Trump administration is prioritizing criminals in the country illegally, but added if immigration reform had been in place, fewer people would be hurt or misled.

“We probably could have discouraged people coming here illegally in the first place,” he said.

• RELATED STORY: Immigrants fueled LA economy to tune of $232.9 billion in 2014

Still, some families reported confusion during the sweeps, adding that the wrong people had been detained.

At least one Pomona man was arrested and deported to Mexico in Thursday’s operations, said Emilio Garcia, executive director of San Bernardino Community Service Center Inc. a nonprofit, organization that provides immigration services in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

While Garcia has already been able to corroborate the information himself, there are two other incidents from Thursday — in San Bernardino and Riverside — that he is still trying to verify.

He still believes Thursday’s incident with ICE was part of their normal operations and not a raid. If it were, then ICE would have had to obtained warrants, he said.

That’s not what happened in Pomona where a man without legal residence was arrested only after ICE agents weren’t able to detain the person they originally sought, Garcia said.

“That was a collateral arrest,” he said.

The Pomona man called his family at 9 p.m. to tell them he was in Tijuana, Mexico, Garcia said.
Under the Obama administration, he said, the Pomona man would been protected by legal practice of prosecutorial discretion, in which ICE would have declined to pursue arrest.

“The priority for enforcement was placed on those who placed a significant threat to the community, had significant criminal record,” Garcia said. “Under the new administration, that’s no longer the case, they can arrest anybody.”

Marlene Mosqueda wiped away tears during the news conference at CHIRLA’s office as she described how her father Manuel Mosqueda was whisked away by ICE officials from their San Fernando Valley home. She said ICE officials took the wrong person away. Navarrete, the CHIRLA attorney, confirmed that Manuel Mosqueda was taken off the bus to Mexico.

“They were looking for someone else, and they got my dad in the process,” Marlene Mosqueda said. “My dad got (taken) away from me.”

Mosqueda said she has become troubled by recent reports and focus on immigrant communities since Trump’s presidency.

“We need to be together. We need to support each other, because in the United States, we’re united,” she pleaded in front of a throng of media microphones. “We’re all breaking it apart one by one with Donald Trump being president.”