President Trump says the raids carried out by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency last week are simply part of his campaign promise to crack down on “illegal criminals.”
“The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” Trump tweeted early Sunday. “Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!”
U.S. immigration officials confirmed that hundreds of undocumented immigrants were arrested last week in at least six states.
In Los Angeles, David Marin, head of ICE’s local removal operations, told reporters that the agency had made approximately 160 arrests, and that roughly 75 percent of those arrested had prior felony convictions. But Marin said some of the undocumented immigrants netted in the raids did not, stoking fear and panic among those living in immigrant communities.
In Texas, where there were a flurry of arrests in cities such as San Antonio and Austin, Rep. Joaquin Castro said he is “asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state.”
The raids were the first large-scale enforcement carried out under Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order that broadened the scope of powers given to ICE agents to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S.
During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to triple the number of ICE deportation officers.
“I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice,” Trump said last August. “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”
Amnesty International said the recent ICE raids raise “grave human rights concerns.”
“It is a violation of human rights to tear families apart through deportation,” Amnesty International executive director Margaret Huang said in a statement. “We call for an immediate pause in these raids and a suspension of this executive order in order to ensure that people’s human rights are protected.”
ICE officials contend the raids aren’t raids at all, but “targeted enforcement actions.”
Meanwhile, leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent an open letter to ICE acting director Thomas Homan demanding a meeting to “discuss the impact these raids have had on our communities.”
“These raids have struck fear in the hearts of the immigrant community as many fear that President Trump’s promised ‘deportation force’ is now in full-swing,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is critical that our constituents have clarity on ICE operations. … Without this guidance, our communities will be paralyzed as students will remain home from school, parents will be afraid to leave children alone and our local economies will be irreparably damaged.”
“Right now there are enforcement actions happening all over this country in which gang members, drug dealers, sex offenders are being swept up,” Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy advisor, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
But Miller declined to say whether the president believes that if the only crime an undocumented immigrant committed is living in the U.S. illegally was enough to justify deportation.
“An immigration judge makes those decisions,” Miller said. “An ICE officer makes those decisions. I and the White House don’t make those decisions.”
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