Law enforcement agencies in Southern California swept through local communities last week, capturing more than 240 immigrants with criminal records in one of the most successful raids of its kind.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 244 people from 21 countries in the Los Angeles area and most had at least one criminal conviction.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told the LA Times that didn’t mean illegal immigrants were committing more crimes, just that they’re harder to find.
“One of the challenges we’re facing is because of state law and local policies, more individuals who are potentially deportable with significant criminal histories are being released onto the street instead of being turned over to ICE. I think to infer from [the sweep] that potentially foreign nationals are committing more crimes is flawed.”
Of the people arrested, 56 percent were convicted of felonies including sex crimes, weapons charges and drug violations, while the rest had significant or multiple misdemeanors, according to Fox News. At least one man had been previously deported.
Mexican immigrants made up the largest group with 191, but 20 other countries were also represented including France, Ghana, Peru, and Thailand.
Not every immigrant captured was in the U.S. illegally, however. Some were documented foreign nationals who face deportation because they committed a crime.
Other counties involved include Orange County, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Riverside, and San Luis Obispo.
It used to be easier for federal agents to find and deport illegal immigrants with criminal records until a federal judge decided local police couldn’t cooperate with ICE officials. Since then, immigration officials have been forced to rely on manhunts like this one to find and deport immigrants, according to ABC News.
David Jennings, field office director for Enforcement and Removal Operations, issued a press release praising the agency’s commitment to removing criminals from American streets.
“By taking these individuals off our streets and removing them from the country, we are making our communities safer for everyone.”
The immigrants who aren’t being prosecuted will be facing deportation proceedings.
Immigration has become a hot button topic and an increasingly important issue in the run up to the 2016 presidential race. Donald Trump began the controversy with his emotional remarks declaring all illegal immigrants to be criminals and drug dealers.
The latest salvo was fired by New Jersey Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie who last week proposed using FedEx technology to track immigrants like packages.