Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested more than 170 illegal immigrants in the second phase a nationwide sting this month that targeted criminals living in sanctuary cities.
Dozens of illegal aliens were apprehended in Baltimore, Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.—places where local law enforcement refuse to work with ICE and often prevent ICE from deporting illegal immigrants who have already been arrested.
Nearly 80% of the 170 illegal immigrants arrested during Operation Rise had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges at the time of arrest, and each had been released from jail by local officials despite ICE’s attempts to detain and deport them.
“We have the legal right to investigate and detain those who break federal laws under our jurisdiction anywhere in the country, and we will use that right to fulfill our moral obligation to protect the citizens of this great country,” said Chad Wolf, acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, during a press conference on Friday.
“We will not be deterred by any local jurisdiction that refuses to cooperate with ICE,” Wolf said.
Phase 1 of Operation Rise resulted in the arrests of nearly 130 people in California cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
About 96% of those arrested during this phase had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges at the time of arrest, but had similarly been released from jail due to the cities’ sanctuary policies.
One illegal immigrant arrested in Los Angeles was a 40-year-old El Salvador native convicted of first-degree murder in 2009. The illegal immigrant was released by the Los Angeles County Jail shortly thereafter, Wolf said.
During this recent phase, one of the illegal immigrants arrested in Colorado had been convicted in 2018 for illegally reentering the U.S., and was convicted again in 2020 for felony menacing, child abuse and violation of bail bond conditions.
Another illegal immigrant arrested in New York was convicted in 2016 for committing a criminal sex act in the third degree with a victim younger than 17-years-old.
“ICE continues to protect communities by taking criminal aliens off the streets regardless of any locality’s cooperation policies – which is part of our Congressionally mandated mission,” said Tony H. Pham, ICE’s senior official performing the duties of the director, in a statement.
“Officers and agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are sworn federal law enforcement officers who enforce U.S. immigration laws created by Congress to keep this country safe,” he added.
Last year, ICE deported 267,258 illegal immigrants. But that number is low compared to past administrations, most notably the Obama administration, which deported 409,849 illegal immigrants in 2012.
“The Department will continue to carry out lawful enforcement actions in order to keep our communities safe, regardless of whether or not we have cooperation from state and local officials,” Wolf said.
He said the agency would always prioritize public safety and law-enforcement over politics.
“When we target sanctuary city policies — or sanctuary cities — it’s not about Republicans, not about Democrats, not about elections,” Wolf said.
“It’s about dangerous policies that are dangerous for that community,” he continued. “… We’re going to go in there. We’re going to pick up individuals that should not be in those communities—so wherever they’re at.”