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ICE Acknowledges It Targeted Sanctuary Cities In Its Most Recent Sweeps

ICE said it had intentionally targeted jurisdictions that don't permit its agents inside their jails.

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WASHINGTON – US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested nearly 500 people in a series of four-day raids that targeted undocumented immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities across the country.

Operation Safe City focused on jurisdictions where ICE agents are denied access to jails and prisons to interview immigrants.

“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,” said Tom Homan, ICE acting director. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”

ICE said that 317 of those arrested had been convicted previously of a variety of crimes, the most common of which was driving under the influence (86). Sixteen had been convicted of sex offenses and 12 of domestic violence.

In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a letter that ICE agents were having to arrest people in public places in areas that have enacted ordinances that keep ICE officers from entering jails and prisons.

The letter was in response to a complaint from Tani Cantil-Sakauye, California’s chief justice, after she complained about agents “stalking” courthouses to make arrests.

"The Trump administration has taken one more step to intimidate immigrant-welcoming communities by moving forward with a national sweep that has negatively impacted at the very least 498 American families and several communities,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), said in a statement. “We are deeply troubled by this politically motivated and cruel form of immigration enforcement.”

Philadelphia saw the largest number of arrests, 107. The others took place in Baltimore (28), Cook County, Illinois, (30), Denver (63), Los Angeles (101), New York (45), Portland, Oregon, (33), Santa Clara County, California, (27), Washington, DC, (14), and the state of Massachusetts (50).

California lawmakers recently passed a bill, awaiting the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, that puts limits on ICE agents inside jails. The operation led to arrests in three California cities.

California Senate Leader Kevin de León, who introduced the bill, called the arrests vindictive.

“The ICE raids in Los Angeles and other targeted cities demonstrates the vindictive nature of the Trump administration in tearing families apart,” Kevin de León said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “It also clearly shows why California needs to protect the honest, hard-working residents so critical to our economy from the President’s deportation machine.”

ICE said 181 of the people arrested didn't have a criminal conviction, 68 of them were picked up because they were undocumented and 104 had been previously deported. Another 18 were alleged gang members or affiliates.

“ICE’s goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners to help prevent dangerous criminal aliens from being released back onto the streets,” Homan said. “Non-cooperation policies severely undermine that effort at the expense of public safety.”

Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.

Contact Adolfo Flores at adolfo.flores@buzzfeed.com.

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