Immigration advocates were fielding reports from frightened people in cities around the country Friday as news, rumors and warnings spread about arrests by immigration officers.
The arrests, some of which ICE acknowledged late Friday evening, kept phones and offices busy, and led advocates to deploy staff lawyers and issue warnings to families and community members about places where ICE was spotted.
“Our community has seen an increase of ICE activity where we have heard ICE agents are going to people’s homes and detaining people,” said Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream.
ICE said in a news release that it conducted operations in Georgia, North and South Carolina and arrested 200 people.
It said the majority had criminal convictions, but that final data would not be available until Monday. The agency said the arrests were part of a targeted operation that is routinely done by its fugitive operations team. During such operations the agency may also arrest other people who may have violated immigration laws, the agency said.
A similar operation was held in six California counties from Los Angeles to the border region.
Immigration officials made about 160 arrests in those counties in what ICE said was an “enforcement surge.” ICE said about 150 of those arrested had criminal histories and only five of the estimated 10 “non-criminals” did not have a final order of removal or had not been previously deported.
ICE said the arrests in California began Monday and finished Friday afternoon. “While this week’s operation was an enforcement surge, the focus was no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis, the agency said.
Late Friday evening, Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, said ICE did a similar operation in San Antonio. He said he was seeking information about whether the individuals were dangerous criminals "and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state."
Jimenez said her group received reports of activity in the past 72 hours from California; Austin, Texas, Alexandria, Virginia; North, Carolina; Oklahoma City; Hudson, New York; Wichita, Kansas, and Plant City, Fla., she said.
The reports follow the Wednesday deportation to Mexico of an Arizona woman who had lived in the country since she was 14. An initial attempt to deport her on Tuesday set off protests. Her deportation was seen by some as the start of harsher immigration enforcement by President Donald Trump.
Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said according to calls to her organization, people arrested in the Los Angeles operation were picked up at home and on their way to work.
In a news conference, Salas said staff attorneys were denied access to a list of individuals who were arrested and were told getting access to an individual would be difficult because of the number of people who were detained.
She said that CHIRLA attorneys filed a motion to stop the deportation of one person. But ICE had already processed the person and misled CHIRLA attorneys on the person’s whereabouts, she said.
“This is something very similar to what happened at LAX, where Customs and Border Protection denied access to individuals that were being detained. We’re very concerned this is becoming a pattern,” she said.
“We refuse to accept mass operations in our city and our state. This cannot be the new normal,” Salas said.
In Austin, which has declared itself a sanctuary city, City Council member Gregorio Casar said his office had heard of several confirmed ICE actions in Austin. According to local media reports, an officer who pulled over a vehicle and tried to take a person into custody suffered minor injuries when family members tried to intervene.
“They are trying to instill fear in this community and I have heard from folks here in our neighborhood who fear for their safety because of these actions,” Casar said. He said children have not come to school and families “have locked themselves in apartments” because of the actions.