WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department said Monday that 680 people were arrested in roundups last week targeting immigrants living illegally in the United States. The figure is far below the totals of similar raids conducted under the Obama administration.
The raids have left immigrant communities worried about stepped-up enforcement efforts and the White House taking credit for arrests. But Homeland Security described the roundups as routine.
DHS Secretary John Kelly said Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted immigrants who are a threat to public safety, including convicted criminals and gang members. He said 75 percent of those arrested were criminals, some of whom had been convicted of homicide and aggravated sexual assault.
ICE officials said 161 people from 13 countries were arrested in the Los Angeles area, all but 10 of whom were convicted criminals. More than 100 people arrested there were from Mexico.
Kelly said arrests also were made by agents working in New York, Atlanta, Chicago and San Antonio.
In the Chicago area, ICE agents arrested at least two individuals previously convicted of sexual abuse.
One, a citizen of Iraq, had a conviction for criminal sexual abuse of a victim unable to consent. A second, a citizen of Mexico, had previously been convicted of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, attempted criminal sexual abuse and solicitation for sex.
In the Midwest, ICE arrested a total 235 immigrants; 163 of them had criminal convictions.
While ICE officials said they were not conducting checkpoints or sweeps, the arrests and rumors about other raids sparked fear and confusion among immigrants.
Immigration advocates and the White House both suggested the arrests were President Donald Trump’s first salvo in what he has promised will be a stepped up campaign to find and deport criminal immigrants and others living in the U.S. illegally.
Trump on Monday bragged that his administration was following through on his campaign pledge and targeting “the bad ones.”
“I said at the beginning we are going to get the bad ones, the really bad ones, we are going to get them out,” Trump said at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
ICE officials and Kelly, however, have said the arrests were part of routine enforcement efforts. Similar roundups under former President Barack Obama yielded far more arrests. In March 2015, ICE said a five-day enforcement effort ended with more than 2,000 arrests.
During the Obama administration, however, ICE agents generally arrested wanted immigration fugitives and convicted criminals. Last week’s arrests included immigrants whose only offense was an immigration violation.
Contributing: Immigration and Customs Enforcement