Over 680 arrested in U.S. immigration raids; rights groups alarmed

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By Julia Edwards Ainsley and Kristina Cooke | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. immigration officers last week
arrested more than 680 people in the country illegally, the
homeland security chief said on Monday, in a broad enforcement
action that alarmed immigrant rights groups.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the
operations, conducted in at least a dozen states, were routine
and consistent with regular operations carried out by U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Immigrant rights advocates said the operations, which they
describe as raids, were not business as usual, and were more
sweeping than operations conducted during the administration of
former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Kelly said in a statement that 75 percent of the immigrants
arrested have criminal records, ranging from homicide to driving
under the influence of alcohol.

He said the operation also targeted people who have violated
immigration laws.

Some had ignored final orders of deportation, according to
ICE, the agency responsible for immigrant arrests and

Obama was criticized for being the “deporter in chief” after
he deported over 400,000 people in 2012, more than any president
in a single year.

In 2014, Obama’s homeland security chief issued a memo
directing agents to focus on deporting a narrow slice of
immigrants, namely those who had recently entered the country or
committed serious felonies. Immigrants who were arrested for
driving under the influence of alcohol, for example, were
treated as lower priorities for deportation.

Republican President Donald Trump promised to deport 2
million to 3 million migrants with criminal records on taking

At a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau on Monday, Trump said his administration had “really
done a great job” in its recent arrests of immigrants.

“We’re actually taking people that are criminals, very,
very, hardened criminals in some cases with a tremendous track
record of abuse and problems,” Trump said.

ICE said in a statement on Monday that the operations
targeted immigrants in the Midwest, Los Angeles, New York, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and San Antonio.

The ICE statistics revealed regional differences in the
profiles of the immigrants arrested. Of the 41 people arrested
in New York City and surrounding areas, 93 percent had criminal
convictions, while 45 percent of the 51 people arrested in the
San Antonio, Texas area did.

Among the 190 people arrested in Georgia, North Carolina and
South Carolina, were 17 people who had no criminal convictions
or a prior order to leave the country, according to ICE.

In a Jan. 25 executive order, Trump broadened an Obama-era
priority enforcement system for immigrants subject to removal
from the United States.

“Now it seems like anyone could be arrested,” said Shiu-Ming
Cheer, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law
Center. “The level of fear and anxiety is much higher than I’ve
ever seen it.” (Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson)

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