East Edition Herald American Lead Story Lynwood Press Northeast Edition The Press

Homeland security secretary defends immigration operations

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly defended recent “targeted enforcement operations” by federal authorities in areas including Los Angeles that triggered mass-deportation fears in some immigrant communities, saying Feb. 13 the raids were aimed at criminals and people who violated immigration laws.

Officials with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), meanwhile, released more detailed information about the 161 people who were detained in the weeklong Southern California operation. According to ICE, 95 people were arrested in Los Angeles County, 35 in Orange County, 13 in San Bernardino County, seven in Riverside County, six in Ventura County and five in Santa Barbara County.

The city of Los Angeles saw the most arrests, with 28, followed by Santa Ana with 16, Van Nuys with nine and Compton with six. The others were scattered around the Southland, with most cities seeing between one and four people arrested.

Similar operations were conducted across the country, with more than 680 people arrested, according to federal authorities.

“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” Kelly said.

He said about 75 percent of the people arrested had been “convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.”

Kelly also stressed that ICE conducts such operations “regularly and has for many years.”

He noted, however, that President Donald Trump “has been clear in affirming the critical mission of [the Department of Homeland Security] in protecting the nation and directed our department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered our country illegally.”

Southland immigration activists responded angrily to news of last week’s raids, saying they feared the operations were the first step in Trump’s vow to carry out mass deportations of people living in the country illegally.

Officials with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles created a toll-free hotline — (888) 624-4752 — for affected immigrants to call for assistance and obtain access to attorneys. The group also began offering hourly training sessions to inform illegal immigrants about their legal rights.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce, said she was “outraged” at news of the recent raids and suggested that some people who were targeted had no violent or criminal history.

“I am working with my constituents and the immigrant community to ensure they know their rights,” she said. “As this process moves forward, I will also ensure my constituents know what the next steps are, where applicable.”

ICE officials said that of the people arrested during the Southern California raids, 42 had domestic violence convictions, 26 were convicted of drug offenses, 23 for assault and 17 for sex crimes. Other convictions among the arrestees included burglary, weapons violations, battery, identity theft and cruelty toward a child.

The bulk of those arrested were from Mexico, while others hailed from countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, China, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Honduras, Belize, Philippines, Australia, Brazil, Israel and South Korea.