Crime & Justice

Immigration agents arrest nearly 200 in LA-area raids

File: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detain an immigrant on Oct. 14, 2015 in Los Angeles.
File: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detain an immigrant on Oct. 14, 2015 in Los Angeles.
John Moore/Getty Images

Immigration agents arrested nearly 200 people suspected of being in the country illegally in a five-day raid in the Los Angeles area, authorities said Thursday.

Ninety percent of the 188 people detained had prior criminal convictions, many for drug offenses and driving under the influence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

The arrests took place through Wednesday as federal immigration agents fanned out across cities including Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Oxnard to arrest immigrants for deportation. The vast majority of those detained were men and more than 75 percent came from Mexico.

The latest sweep follows a similar one in February that led to more than 160 arrests. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say some of what they’re doing is different.

“We are focusing and going after the same people. It’s just that now, particularly here in California, we are having to do that in a different manner,” David Marin, a top ICE official in Los Angeles, told KPCC.

He said in the past, agents could arrest immigrants more easily in local jails. That’s changed with some local officials pushing back on holding immigrants beyond the time they are usually held.

So immigration agents are pursuing them individually and targeting them in their homes.

President Donald Trump's administration has touted an increase in immigration arrests since taking office in January on promises to bolster immigration enforcement. Immigrant advocates have decried many of the arrests, especially those of immigrants without criminal histories.

Marin said the latest round of arrests was in the works before Trump's election. A similarly large local sweep took place last summer during the Obama administration.

But immigrant advocates insist things are different now. Attorney Cinthia Flores is with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

“While there are some tactics that are similar in nature to enforcement actions in the past, we are seeing a sense of emboldenment,” Flores said. This includes more bystanders being arrested, referred to as collateral arrests. 

One in five of those arrested in the latest sweep had prior convictions for drug crimes. Other offenses on arrestees' rap sheets included domestic violence, sex crimes and battery, the statement said.

One of the arrestees was a 29-year-old Salvadoran man who was deported in 2014 after he was sentenced to nine years in prison for rape. He later returned to the country illegally, ICE said.

This story has been updated.