Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) conducted a series of operations in July and August, arresting over 2,000 illegal immigrants from 20 counties with a majority of those having criminal charges or convictions. The “at-large” arrests took place across the country at residences, worksites, and traffic stops.
Around 85% of the immigrants arrested either had criminal convictions or had charges pending against them. The rest of those arrested already were subject to deportation orders. The operation, which lasted from July 13 through August 20, arrested immigrants convicted or charged with crimes including manslaughter, assault, domestic violence, extortion, robbery, and sexual offenses with a minor, said an officer from the agency. Also, most of them lived in sanctuary cities.
“The aliens targeted during this operation preyed on men, women, and children in our communities, committing serious crimes and, at times, repeatedly hurting their victims,” stated ICE Director Tony Pham. “By focusing our efforts on perpetrators of crimes against people, we’re able to remove these threats from our communities and prevent future victimization from occurring. Through our targeted enforcement efforts, we are eliminating the threat posed by these criminals, many of whom are repeat offenders.”
In 2020, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) has so far arrested 89,393 individuals, compared to 121,086 in the fiscal year 2019. The data released by ICE for 2019 shows it arrested illegal immigrants with more than 1,900 convictions and charges for homicide, 1,800 for kidnapping, 12,000 for sex offenses, and 45,000 for assaults.
The concept of a sanctuary city is that it limits its cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents so that immigrants can be protected from deportation, though it still turns over aliens who have committed serious crimes. It is said that law enforcement officials can focus more on serious criminals rather than arresting or detaining immigrants just for being undocumented. In California, a sanctuary state, a third of those arrested were illegal immigrants who had been released from jail despite ICE detainers. This means that police allowed these illegal immigrants to walk free rather than be deported. Sanctuary laws stop law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
ICE has come under major criticism for its response to the spread of the coronavirus inside its overcrowded immigration detention center, which is the largest in the world. ICE has recorded more than 5,300 immigrants in custody who have tested positive to the virus and at least six infected detainees have died. ERO Executive Associate Director, Officer Henry Lucero, said that given the pandemic, the detainee population of the agency has plummeted.
On the other hand, the policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, Aaron Reichlin-Melnic, noted that “the number of people entering ICE detention after being arrested by the agency, rather than being transferred by border officials, has been increasing in recent weeks.” Reichlin-Melnic expressed concern over the rampant spread of the virus in immigration detention centers and the fact that ICE continues to arrest and detain still more aliens.
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