US agents arrest more than 200 undocumented immigrants, target 122 businesses in California sweep

Key Points
  • A five-day immigration sweep has led to the arrest of 212 undocumented immigrants and the targeting of 122 firms in Southern California, federal officials said Friday.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in late January targeted at least 77 businesses in Northern California.
  • The Trump administration's clampdown on illegal immigration in California follows the state passing a controversial sanctuary law.
  • ICE has previously said it planned to significantly increase immigration enforcement in the nation's workplace.
ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations unit raid to apprehend immigrants without any legal status and who may be deportable in Riverside.
Irfan Khan | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

The federal government's immigration crackdown in California widened Friday with the announcement that a five-day sweep led to the arrest of 212 undocumented immigrants and the targeting of 122 businesses in Southern California.

The action comes on the heels of raids in Northern California targeting undocumented immigrant workers.

The Trump administration's clampdown on illegal immigration in California follows the state's controversial "sanctuary law," which limits local law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities, going into effect in January.

The state also passed a law that bars employers from voluntarily giving employee information to federal authorities. In January, the state's attorney general, Xavier Becerra, warned that businesses could face a $10,000 fine if they violated the new law.

"This seems to be a battle between California as a state and the federal government," said Angelo Paparelli, an immigration attorney in the L.A. office of Seyfarth Shaw. "The employers when they are served with notices of inspection have an awareness that this isn't just a civil enforcement proceeding — it could very well lead to a criminal enforcement proceeding."

According to ICE, its deportation officers and special officers arrested 212 people for violating federal immigration laws and served notices of inspection to 122 businesses in Southern California. ICE said 88 percent of those arrested were convicted criminals, including some convicted of serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and assault.

ICE said in a press release the week-long enforcement action in the agency's Los Angeles region targeted those "individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security."

At the same time, the federal agency also said it "no longer exempts classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States."

"Angelenos should not have to fear raids that bring unnecessary anxiety to our homes, schools, and workplaces — and everyone is safer when our neighbors trust the officers who dedicate themselves to protecting and serving the people of this city," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "The administration should focus on people who have committed serious crimes or pose a threat to national security, rather than on separating hard-working families."

In late January U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents served at least 77 businesses in the San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento areas with notices to show hiring documents. Also, there was a report this week that farms in the state's San Joaquin Valley — one of the largest agricultural production regions in the nation — have been targeted with worker audits by federal immigration authorities.

The sweep announced Friday is larger than the one in ICE's Los Angeles region announced last May by immigration enforcement authorities, in which nearly 200 people were arrested. Those raids targeted criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives. ICE's Los Angeles region includes not only L.A. County but six other Southern California counties — Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

"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, putting officers, the general public and the aliens at greater risk and increasing the incidents of collateral arrests," ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.

Homan said, "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."

In October, Homan spoke at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington and said the federal agency planned to increase enforcement in the worksite by "four to five times." The agency also has conducted enforcement actions outside schools and courthouses in California.