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Several gang members and individuals with previous convictions for manslaughter, rape and assaulting law enforcement officers were among 162 people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a three-day action in the Los Angeles area, federal authorities announced Thursday.
The arrests targeted "at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives, and aliens released back in to the community after detainers filed by ICE with local law enforcement officials were ignored," ICE said in a release.
The agency said "almost 90 percent" of those arrested in the Los Angeles and surrounding area had criminal convictions, including for sex crimes against children. It added that in 53 of the arrest cases, ICE had filed detainers with local law enforcement officials notifying them of the agency's intent to assume custody of the aliens once they were no longer being held by local authorities.
"At-large criminal alien arrests are among the most dangerous types of enforcement actions ICE officers are engaged in [on a] daily basis," said David Marin, field office director for ICE enforcement and removal operations in Los Angeles. "Thanks to their remarkable efforts, there are 143 fewer criminals on the streets. We will continue to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests to ensure the safety of the law-abiding citizens of our Southland communities."
ICE said one of the arrests involved a 32-year-old Mexican national who had been convicted of rape and was sentenced to eight years in prison. "This individual has also been identified as a documented gang member," ICE said in a release.
The federal agency said the arrests also included a 47-year-old, previously deported, El Salvadorian national who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to seven years' jail time. It added that federal "databases indicate this individual was released by local authorities despite an ICE detainer."
Overall, federal immigration authorities have announced more than 650 arrests since March in California of aliens for violating federal immigration laws. There also have been notices of inspection issued to hundreds of businesses in California.
The immigration crackdown in California comes as the federal government is challenging the state's so-called sanctuary policies designed to protect undocumented immigrants. The Trump administration sued California in March and a key hearing in the case is scheduled next week in a Sacramento federal court where a judge is expected to hear the federal government's request for a preliminary injunction against three of the state's sanctuary laws.
One of the state's sanctuary policies known as Senate Bill 54, or dubbed the California Values Act, limits local and state law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Opponents of the policy say the state policy jeopardizes the safety of the public because it made it tougher to get incarcerated immigrants once they are released from jails to the custody of federal immigration agents.
The federal government now appears to be limiting its cooperation with California law enforcement, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. The paper said U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents recently have started declining to transfer some immigrant suspects into the custody of California law enforcement agencies. It said the suspects have been linked to various crimes, including sexual assault and drug offenses.
According to the Times, federal authorities are reluctant to send immigrant suspects to California law enforcement custody because they have no assurances that the same individuals will get transferred back to federal custody once their cases are completed at the state level.
CNBC reached out to the CBP agency for comment. The California Department of Justice didn't respond to a request for comment.
Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to California to announce the administration's new "zero tolerance" border enforcement policy. The Trump administration's strict new immigration enforcement policy has meant more parents caught illegally crossing the U.S. southwest border are getting prosecuted and separated from children accompanying them.
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan voiced his opposition to the administration's new policy of separating immigrant children from parents at the U.S. border. "No I am not" comfortable with it, the Wisconsin Republican told reporters. "We don't want kids to be separated from their parents."
Children found illegally crossing with adults are split up from parents and transferred to the custody of a refugee resettlement agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The government has been looking into building tent cities on vacant military properties to handle the increased number of unaccompanied minors in custody under the government's new zero tolerance border enforcement policy.
Last week, a spokesperson from HHS's Administration for Children and Families unit confirmed to CNBC that at least three Texas sites were "being evaluated for potential use as temporary shelters for unaccompanied alien children at some point in the future."
At present, the largest of these detention facilities for migrant children is the Casa Padre shelter. It is a former Walmart store in Brownsville, Texas.
MSNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff was allowed in this week to see the Casa Padre detention facility, which houses more than 1,400 boys. He said in a report that the facility is "overcrowded" and the boys, aged 10 to 17, are only allowed outside two hours each day.
"They are just trying to keep these kids busy," Soboroff said in the on-air report. He also said there's presidential murals in the facility, including one of President Donald Trump with the quote: "sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war."
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.