Fear is running high among immigrant communities since President Donald Trump's inauguration - and after the recent publicized deportation of an undocumented Arizona mother of two after a routine visit with immigration officials, reports have been spreading of Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepping up its actions in the southwestern US. "Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support".
But some local and state lawmakers, in California and elsewhere, confirmed reports from immigrant-rights groups about expanded operations by immigration authorities, putting a spotlight on enforcement in the wake of a Trump executive action that lifted numerous Obama-era restrictions on who agents should and shouldn't target. ICE officials had originally said that the reports of 100 detainees were exaggerated. "Our operations are targeted and lead driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities", ICE told CBS News.
CHIRLA's director of policy, Joseph Villa, said the organization has had "hundreds of calls to our offices as well from attorneys indicating that their clients have been picked up".
"Let me be clear, we want to work together to get violent felons out of our neighborhoods; however, we remain deeply concerned with the new Administration's recent decision to prioritize almost every undocumented resident in California for deportation, and their apparent inability to accurately inform the public of their operations in a timely manner", de León said. Breitbart Texas reported from Austin, Texas, that 44 criminal aliens had been taken into custody this week.
Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas confirmed the launch of a "targeted operation" aimed at arresting the undocumented.
"It is critical that we meet with you in person immediately to discuss the impact these raids have had on our communities as well as obtain clarifying guidance on how ICE policies will differ from the last Administration", the letter reads. "I will continue to monitor this situation".
While ICE characterized the actions as routine, fear remains that the Trump administration's recent executive order beefing up interior enforcement of immigration laws could mean a vast expansion of deportations of undocumented immigrants.
Some advocates also have hinted that the raids could be in retaliation for so-called "sanctuary cities" across the U.S.
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A Department of Homeland Security official said that reports about the number of immigration-related arrests made Thursday were "grossly exaggerated".
President pro Tempore of the California State Senate Kevin de Leon also challenged the motivation of the operation and those being targeted for arrest.
"Multiple members, I think, of the media here reported on an arrest this morning and multiple members of the media here reported on the video that happened right up the street here at Whataburger, so that is another public ICE action", Casar said. "I have asked federal officials to disclose how many children, men, and women they have detained; what the processing time will be; what the rationale is for their detention; and I asked that everyone be offered access to an attorney".
ICE raided areas of Chicago on Thursday, according to multiple reports.
ICE spokespeople told media the Los Angeles arrests were routine operations targeting risky individuals, and that the deported woman had no legal basis to be in the US. "Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions", a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the L.A. Times.
The operation is on-going in several states.
By Friday night, 37 undocumented immigrants had already been expelled to Mexico.