President Donald Trump Administration Begins Deportation Raids Across the United States

Hundreds of people are detained as president proceeds with promised immigration crackdown

Ramped-up immigration enforcement in several cities this week has resulted in the detention of hundreds or more people in the country unlawfully, according to attorneys and advocacy groups, who said they expected most of them to be deported.

Illegal immigrants were rounded up in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; and across southern California, among others, they said.

President Donald Trump set an ambitious course when he took office through a series of executive orders, promising to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, suspend the refugee program and pause the admittance of foreign nationals from certain countries.

But his plans hit a roadblock when a Seattle federal judge halted his travel ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations considered a terror threat, and the decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit court this week.

Still, that didn’t prevent Mr. Trump from rolling out enforcement of a separate executive order targeting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said the five-day enforcement “surge” began Monday and concluded midday Friday. Officials confirmed action in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, though they didn’t dispute that the operation was also under way in other cities.

“This operation is on par with similar operations we have done in the past,” said David Marin, field office director for ICE in Los Angeles, in reference to southern California.

He declined to say whether ICE offices around the country had coordinated a multicity enforcement action. He also declined to discuss President Trump’s executive order.

The agency said 160 foreigners were arrested in six Los Angeles-area counties this week, and said about 150 of them had criminal histories. Of the 10 others, five had been given final orders of removal or had previously been deported, ICE said.

ICE highlighted cases of several people suspected or convicted of serious crimes, including a Salvadoran national arrested in Huntington Park, Calif., who is wanted in El Salvador for aggravated extortion, a Brazilian arrested in Los Angeles who is wanted in Brazil for cocaine trafficking, and an Australian national taken into custody in West Hollywood who was previously convicted of “lewd and lascivious acts with a child.”

Administration officials said the enforcement was similar to regular operations during the Obama administration but that their lists of targets were drawn up based on the criteria outlined in an executive order signed by Mr. Trump. That order expanded the definition of who is considered a priority for deportation beyond the rules used during the final years of the Obama administration.

Now, people convicted of minor crimes, people charged but not convicted and others who officers believe threaten public safety are all prioritized for deportation. Officials said most of the people targeted this week would have been subject to deportation under the Obama administration, which prioritized people with serious criminal records. But it is likely that at least some others with lesser offenses were included as well.

In addition, one official said, it is likely that enforcement agents encountered people in the U.S. illegally during the enforcement action who weren’t targets but who were nonetheless taken into custody. Some of those people probably wouldn’t have been subject to deportation under the Obama rules.

Mr. Trump’s order widens the pool of undocumented immigrants to be deported. It includes not only those convicted of crimes but also those not yet charged who are believed to have committed “acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

That encompasses immigrants charged with crimes that haven’t yet been adjudicated; who improperly received a government benefit; used a fake ID to secure work and were caught driving without a license. Those who lied on applications and forms are also targets, according to the order.

Out of the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. about 8 million participate in the economy. Many of them have used made-up Social Security numbers and lied about their status on federal forms to secure jobs, immigration experts say, though specific numbers are hard to come by.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump pledged to immediately focus on deporting two million to three million immigrants who he says are criminals. The Migration Policy Institute estimated in 2015 that 820,000 have a criminal conviction.

Lawyers said Friday that many of their clients who were detained had an outstanding removal order, because they had skipped a court day or evaded a deportation order. These immigrants weren’t previously a priority for removal, if they had been living in the interior of the country for an extended period and not committed a crime.

Tin Nguyen, an immigration attorney in Charlotte, N.C., said he has been flooded with calls. He said several immigrants whose families had contacted him Thursday for legal representation had been transferred to a larger immigration detention center in Georgia by the time he tried to meet them at a local facility Friday.

Immigration agents, sometimes backed by local police, arrested people in cars, inside their homes and at work sites, attorneys and advocates said.

Stephanie Gharakhanian, an attorney in Austin with the pro-immigrant Workers Defense Project, said activity by federal immigration authorities went “above and beyond what we have seen in the past.”

“ICE is showing up at people’s homes, showing up at places of businesses. This level of ICE activity in the community is absolutely unprecedented,” she said.

Robin Hvidston, president of We the People Rising, a group based in Claremont, Calif., which advocates for a stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, said she was supportive of the actions because they were targeting “criminal aliens.” She pointed to the statements from ICE that said it arrested people who had committed crimes against children and other felonies.

“It is just a matter of keeping our communities safe, and just a part of Trump fulfilling his campaign pledge to make American safe again,” she said. “This is about public safety, it is about the removal of criminal aliens from our state and this country.”

In Los Angeles, a coalition of civil-rights, interfaith and pro-bono attorneys has formed a “raid rapid response network” due to the escalated enforcement.

“This cannot be the new normal, and we will fight back,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

She said the organization had received an unprecedented number of reports from lawyers and community members reporting detentions Wednesday.

At a news conference, Marlene Mosqueda said her father, Manuel, was arrested when ICE agents came looking for another person in his building complex. He is undocumented but has no criminal record. Later, when an attorney intervened, he was pulled off a deportation bus, she said.

“This proves that Donald Trump was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes talking about targeting criminals and in fact is focusing on separating families,” said California state Senate leader Kevin de León.

“There is nothing to complain about here,” said Dave Ray, director of communications, for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports immigration enforcement measures. “The vast majority of those detained today were targeted because they have criminal histories and prior felony convictions, some of them very serious.”

ICE officials highlighted that its agents carry out targeted operations on a continuing basis. For example, five separate operations in New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic states and Virginia resulted in the arrest of more than 350 people between August and December 2016.

“Obama did these for eight years,” said Charles Kuck, an Atlanta immigration lawyer and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The difference now is that they are picking up others who might just be undocumented who happen to be in the residence or neighborhood when agents shows up.”

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