Immigration arrests across Southern California over the past week were planned before President Trump took office and could be compared to similar operations the occurred last summer, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said.
The Los Angeles Times reported that authorities arrested more than 160 people in the five-day sweep, most of whom have criminal histories.
David Marin, the director, told the paper that most of those arrested had prior felony convictions, but a few were taken in because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He said five people would not have met the Obama administration’s enforcement priorities but were arrested because they were found to be in the country illegally.
“The rash of these recent reports about ICE checkpoints and random sweeps and the like, it’s all false, and that’s definitely dangerous and irresponsible,” Marin told the paper. “Reports like that create panic, and they put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger.”
He said similar operations took place this week in Atlanta, New York and Chicago.
Immigrant advocates 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.
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.
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.
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.
“Even under Obama we had sweeps or big operations where they would go into a particular neighborhood or say that this week we’re going to do a big operation and arrest people with certain profiles in certain parts of the city,” Jennie Pasquarella, a director of immigrant rights for the ACLU, said. “The piece of it that is new is some of the reports that we were getting yesterday indicating that there were people [arrested] who did not have any criminal convictions at all.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report