U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it arrested 212 undocumented immigrants in southern California over the past week.
ICE announced the arrests Friday, saying 122 businesses had been targeted during a five-day sweep.
In a statement, ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said, “Because sanctuary jurisdictions like Los Angeles prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, our officers are forced to conduct at-large arrests in the community.”
He said that “fewer jail arrests mean more arrests on the street, and that also requires more resources, which is why we are forced to send additional resources to those areas to meet operational needs and officer safety.”
The statement said 88 percent of those arrested were either convicted criminals, had failed to follow deportation orders, or had previously been removed from the United States and returned illegally. It said more than 55 percent, or 107 people, had prior felony convictions for “serious” or “violent” offenses, or had past convictions for “significant” or multiple misdemeanors.
The ICE raids in Southern California and a similar operation last month in Northern California came after the state declared itself a “sanctuary state” in October, meaning state law restricts local police from detaining people on behalf of federal immigration agents.
Proponents of California’s sanctuary law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, say it is a safety measure designed to ensure that undocumented residents are not deterred from reporting crimes or sending their children to school.
Kevin de Leon, the Democratic state lawmaker who authored the bill, said it was meant to “put a large kink in [President Donald] Trump’s perverse and inhumane deportation machine.”
After the sanctuary bill became state law, Homan said California had “better hold on tight.”
California’s sanctuary law bans employers from letting ICE inspectors into private business areas without a warrant, and requires business owners to notify their employees within 72 hours if they have been served notice of an ICE inspection.
Reports from California said some employees did not show up for work on the day their employers were slated for inspections.