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.

 

Immigration authorities arrest 160 during week-long raids

LOS ANGELES — Federal immigration authorities confirmed Friday they arrested about 160 foreign nationals in a series of Southland raids carried out over the past week targeting “criminal aliens” and others in the country illegally, but activists and some elected officials criticized the actions and offered support to affected immigrants.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the raids were carried out in six Southern California counties beginning Feb. 6 and ending around noon Friday. The operations targeted “at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives.”

ICE officials said about 150 of the people arrested had criminal histories, while five others had “final orders of removal or had been previously deported.” They noted that many of those arrested had prior felony convictions for violent offenses including sex crimes, weapons charges and assault, and some will be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution for re-entering the country illegally.

Details were not provided on the remaining people arrested, but ICE noted that during some raids, officers “frequently encounter additional suspects who may be in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. Those persons will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and, when appropriate, arrested by ICE.”

The raids prompted an outcry from local immigrant-rights activists, who suggested the actions were a result of a stepped-up enforcement effort under President Donald Trump’s administration, which has vowed to crack down on illegal immigrations and people living in the United States without authorization.

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.

A woman with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles conducts a training session to inform illegal immigrants about their legal rights Friday after 160 people were arrested in a week-long series of immigration raids in Southern California. (Courtesy photo)
A woman with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles conducts a training session to inform illegal immigrants about their legal rights Friday after 160 people were arrested in a week-long series of immigration raids in Southern California. (Courtesy photo)

One woman, Marlene Mosqueda, told reporters Friday morning her father was taken away Thursday by authorities who weren’t wearing clothing identifying them as ICE officers, and he was deported.

“They took my parents away,” she said. “They took my family away.”

ICE officials insisted, however, that while the raids represented an enforcement “surge,” they were “no different than the routing, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis.”

“The rash of recent reports about purported ICE checkpoints and random sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible,” ICE officials said in a statement. “These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger. Individuals who falsely report such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.”

But some elected officials criticized the immigration actions.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he spoke to the deputy director of ICE’s Los Angeles field office.

“I told [him] that I will do everything in my power — working alongside our city attorney, the LAPD, immigrants’ rights advocates, congressional delegation and outside lawyers — to make sure that the legal rights of all Angelenos are respected and upheld at every stage of the enforcement process.”

“President Trump has already ignited widespread fear and confusion in our immigrant communities with his executive order and divisive campaign rhetoric,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “If the reports are accurate, these raids only add to the anxiety about what’s to come from this administration.”

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.”

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, also weighed in.

“I am sickened by the recent ICE raids,” she said. “It is unacceptable for families to be torn apart in this fear-generating manner. Inducing trauma is not good for any individual and on a larger scale makes society ill.

“This is not the America of the civil rights movement which taught us that everyone has a place at the table and in America.”

ICE officials said the five-day operation included:

• The Huntington Park arrest of a Salvadoran national gang member wanted in his home country for aggravated extortion.

• The Los Angeles arrest of a Brazilian national wanted in Brazil for cocaine trafficking.

• And the West Hollywood arrest of an Australian national previously convicted of lewd acts with a child.

 

Beck says LAPD won’t change immigration policies

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department will not change its immigration policies, despite pledges by President-elect Donald Trump to toughen the nation’s immigration laws and deport million of immigrants living in the country illegally, Police Chief Charlie Beck said in remarks reported Nov. 14.

“I don’t intend on doing anything different,” Beck said in a story posted on the Los Angeles Times website. “We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status. We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.”

The LAPD has had a policy — known as Special Order 40 — since 1979 that bars officers from initiating contact with anyone for the sole purpose of determining if they are in the country illegally. In recent years, the department has also stopped referring low-level arrestees to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation.

Trump made immigration a major issue during his presidential campaign, saying he would build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and round up people living in the country illegally and deport them. Those pledges have sparked concerns among immigrant communities in the days since Trump was elected, and contributed to protests that have been held across the country over the past week.

According to The Times, Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed Beck’s immigration stance Nov. 11 while speaking to members of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, telling the group Special Order 40 will remain in place.

“Our law enforcement officers and LAPD don’t go around asking people for their papers, nor should they,” Garcetti said. “That’s not the role of local law enforcement.”

Beck told The Times members of his command staff have been meeting with community leaders to discuss concerns over immigration enforcement.

“This is the same LAPD you had a week ago,” he said. “We have not changed because of the election. We have the same principles. We have the same values. This is not going to change the way that the Los Angeles Police Department enforces the law.”