U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles. Photo by Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles. Photo by Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS

Federal raids that rounded up over 100 undocumented immigrants in Southern California this week have sparked fear and outcry among immigrant families and advocates.

“The fear coursing through immigrant homes and the native-born Americans who love immigrants as friends and family is palpable,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Reports of raids in immigrant communities are a grave concern.”

The reports come on the heels of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations. That order is  currently on hold.

“President Trump has already ignited widespread fear and confusion in our immigrant communities with his executive order and divisive campaign rhetoric,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “If the reports are accurate, these raids only add to the anxiety about what’s to come from this administration.”

Enforcement actions also took place in Atlanta, New York, Chicago and surrounding areas, said David Marin, director of enforcement and removal for the Los Angeles field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In Southern California, the raids were carried out in six counties beginning Monday and ending around noon Friday. The operations targeted “at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives.”

Only five of 161 people arrested in Southern California would not have been enforcement priorities under the Obama administration, Marin said.

Marin called the five-day operation an “enforcement surge.”

In a conference call with reporters, he said that such actions were routine, pointing to one last summer in Los Angeles under former President Barack Obama.

“The rash of these recent reports about ICE checkpoints and random sweeps, that’s all false and that’s dangerous and irresponsible,” Marin said. “Reports like that create a panic.”

He said that of the people arrested in Southern California, only 10 did not have criminal records. Of those, five had prior deportation orders.

Michael Kagan, a professor of immigration law at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said immigration advocates are concerned that the arrests could signal the beginning of more aggressive enforcement and increased deportations under Trump.

“It sounds as if the majority are people who would have been priorities under Obama as well,” Kagan said in a telephone interview. “But the others may indicate the first edge of a new wave of arrests and deportations.”

Trump recently broadened the categories of people who could be targeted for immigration enforcement to anyone who had been charged with a crime, removing an Obama-era exception for people convicted of traffic misdemeanors, Kagan said.

Reuters and City News Service contributed to this article.

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