AUSTIN - During a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens, 51 foreign nationals were arrested in the past week in Austin.
ICE agents arrested almost 700 undocumented immigrants nationwide. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement the arrests were “consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis."
Rep. Joaquin Castro said President Donald Trump’s executive order on public safety changed the rules.
“They've now broadened the scope, and they can essentially target whomever they want,” Castro said.
Now, agents should “employ all lawful means” to pursue “all removable aliens,” not just those with criminal records.
ICE said the operation targeted public safety threats and people who have violated the nation's immigration laws, adding that some will face criminal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office, while the others will be processed for removal from the U.S. When prioritizing arrests, agents should consider not just convictions, but charges as well, or if the person is a risk in the arresting officer’s opinion.
“Catch all provision, which basically opened the door for ICE to be able to target an undocumented immigrant and deport them,” Castro said.
ICE officials said of the 51 arrested, 23 had criminal convictions. The arrests included:
A citizen of Mexico previously removed from the United States, who was convicted of aggravated assault.
A citizen of El Salvador, who pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a child.
A citizen of Mexico convicted of domestic violence charges as a repeat offender.
"ICE officers in the San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and New York City areas of responsibility arrested more than 680 individuals who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system," Kelly said in a statement. "Of those arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens.
Castro said he and his staff are combing through as many as 200 videos and pictures of the arrests gathered from social media.
“There’s a very good chance that getting caught in these raids are immigrants who have no criminal background, who are people that have been here for years, that are raising their families, pay taxes,” Castro said.
"President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of Department of Homeland Security 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,” Kelly said in a statement.
Castro said he is expecting a full list of the people arrested later this week. He said some of the pictures and videos he’s collected should be ready for release around the same time.
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