WASHINGTON — The director of Homeland Security said today that three-quarters of the illegal immigrants swept up in recent raids, which alarmed civil-rights groups, had criminal convictions.
John Kelly said in a statement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched “a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country” last week that were routine, with targets including “convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.”
ICE officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City areas arrested more than 680 during the sweeps, he said, and “of those arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens.”
Kelly said President Trump “has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation and directed our Department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally.”
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund president and general counsel Thomas A. Saenz said the “haphazard nature” of the raids and the “denials of central direction suggest an appalling lack of command and control over agencies whose troubling histories of unconstitutional and non-transparent rights violations demand greater control, not less.”
“Especially problematic are reports of collateral arrests of bystanders who happen to be present when warrants are executed. Collateral arrests for civil immigration violations are execrable acts characteristic of totalitarian regimes, not of the United States,” Saenz added. “This un-American practice must cease.”
The MALDEF leader said activists are also concerned about “apparent deportations of persons with final orders of removal where the previous administration had exercised appropriate discretion to defer executing the orders,” such as the case of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos in Arizona.
“Removing immigrants for working to support family violates many of the principles that have long made our country great,” Saenz said. “Yes, there is injustice in our legal system, but it is not often experienced by wealthy and privileged businessmen. It is far more often experienced by poor immigrants of color demonized by irresponsible political leaders. And now that injustice is compounded by prioritized deportation. Sad.”
Asked on Sunday’s Face the Nation if illegal immigrants who have not committed any crimes other than illegally entering the country should be worried, White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller replied, “Look, it’s not for me to tell people how to feel or not to feel.”
“We’re in the process of removing criminal aliens from this country and enforcing immigration laws and keeping the public safe,” he added. “And the bottom line is this — in the calculation between open borders and saving American lives, it is the easiest choice we will ever have to make.”
National Council of La Raza president and CEO Janet Murguía accused the administration of “intentional targeting of Latinos” with “blatant disregard for the well-being of our families.”
“It’s an unfortunate look into the future that awaits many hardworking families in America who contribute positively to this nation every day,” she said. “We must raise our voices to injustice and not allow good people to be caught up in the politics of intolerance.”