More than 2,000 undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation because they have criminal convictions were swept up in a weeklong coast-to-coast operation — and officials say dozens of them could have been nabbed earlier.
In the Los Angeles area, for instance, 59 of the 218 suspects had recently been jailed and then released, even though the feds had asked that they be detained for possible deportation, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A California law called the Trust Act that took hold at the beginning of last year limits the state's cooperation with immigration authorities except in the case of serious criminal offenses.
And a ruling by an Oregon judge that the detainers violate the rights of undocumented immigrants, by keeping them in custody after they are eligible for release, prompted cities and counties around the country to stop honoring the federal holds.
"Until this area of the law is further clarified by the courts, effective immediately the Los Angeles Police Department will no longer honor immigration detainer requests submitted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in July.
Critics of the detainers, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the detainers turn local police departments into immigration enforcers, eroding public trust, and are used disproportionately against Latinos.
ICE officials say that when local authorities refuse to comply with the holds, it means agents have to track down convicts on the streets instead of just picking them up from lockup.
"There are individuals that have been released from local custody that we have had to apprehend through more thorough effort in the community," Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said Monday as the results of the latest sweep were announced.
"Now [the officers] have to go in at personal risk to themselves to apprehend that very individual we could have taken custody of at a local facility."
Last week's sweeps were the sixth installment of "Operation Cross Check." Officials said 58 of those arrested are tied to gangs and 89 were convicted sex offenders. The vast majority of those convicted of misdemeanors had DUI busts, which ICE called "a significant public safety threat."
Nearly a quarter of those arrested had been previously deported.