United States

Activists Decry 160 Arrests in ICE Raids

"They were looking for someone else and they took my dad in the process," Marlene Mosqueda said

Immigrant advocates on Friday decried a series of arrests that federal deportation agents said aimed to round up criminals in Southern California but they believe mark a shift in enforcement under the Trump administration.

Immigration authorities launched a series of raids, which appeared to target scores of undocumented immigrants, including those without criminal records, in several states across the country Thursday and Friday. 

Advocates began fielding calls Thursday from immigrants and their lawyers reporting raids at homes and businesses in the greater Los Angeles area. 

In one instance, agents knocked on one door looking for a man and ended up arresting another who is in the country illegally but has no criminal record — something Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said would not likely have happened previously.

"This was not normal," Salas told reporters Friday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested about 160 people during a five-day sweep in Southern California aimed at immigrants with criminal histories and deportation orders, including a Salvadoran gang member wanted in his country and a Brazilian drug trafficker.

The arrests were part of a planned, targeted operation, and anyone else encountered during the process who lacks legal status is evaluated on an individual basis, the agency said in a statement.

According to the Washington Post, immigration activists said Friday that they had documented ICE raids of unusual intensity in the last 48 hours in Vista, Pomona and Compton, Calif.; Austin, Dallas, and Pflugerville, Texas; Alexandria and Annandale, Va.; Charlotte and Burlington, N.C.; Plant City, Fla.; the Hudson Valley region of New York; and Wichita, Kan.

The announcement of the arrests comes days after an Arizona woman was arrested and deported to Mexico after what she thought was a routine check in with immigration officials and amid heightened anxiety among immigrant communities since Trump signed an executive order to expand deportations.

A decade ago, immigration officers searching for specific individuals would often arrest others found along the way, a practice that drew criticism from advocates. Under the Obama administration, agents also carried out arrests but focused more narrowly on specific individuals.

In the suburbs of Los Angeles, 50-year-old house painter Manuel Mosqueda was there when his fiancé answered the door, thinking it was police, his 21-year-old daughter Marlene said.

"They were looking for someone else and they took my dad in the process," she said.

Karla Navarrete, a lawyer for CHIRLA, said she sought to stop Mosqueda from being placed on a bus to Mexico and was told by ICE that things had changed. She said another lawyer filed federal court papers to halt his removal.

Salas said the agency provided scant details to lawyers who headed to the detention center in response to the phone calls, and in the past was more forthcoming with information about their operations.

She also said there is increased anxiety in the community about immigration enforcement since Trump's order.

Democratic state lawmakers denounced the arrests and urged immigrants to know their rights and what to do if approached by federal authorities.

California State President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon said in a statement Friday that he's asked federal officials to disclose how many children, men, and women have been detained, what the processing time will be and what the rationale is for their detention.

"I asked that everyone be offered access to an attorney," he said. "We will continue to work aggressively to protect law-abiding immigrants because you and your families are a great value to our society."

He continued, "It is now clear the Trump Administration is not concerned with public safety, they are only focused on ripping hard-working men, women, and children from their families and communities. Mass deportations will not make us safer, instead they will simply undermine our state’s economy."

Former Los Angeles mayor and California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa called the recent reports of ICE raids "justifiably disturbing."

"Particularly given President Trump's rhetoric targeting immigrants, it is critically important that we stand together to protect each other," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "No one should be ripped away from their family for the 'crime' of wanting to work, study and participate in our great democracy."

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, also voiced concerns about Operation Cross Check raids in South and Central Texas in a tweet, saying he has asked "ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous,violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state. I will continue to monitor this situation."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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