More than 240 immigrants were arrested in Southern California last week in a four-day sweep ending Thursday during which federal immigration officials identified immigrants with criminal records living in the country illegally.
A majority of the 244 individuals scooped up had convictions for violent felonies, weapons charges or sex abuse charges, according to the Los Angeles Times. The rest had convictions for "significant or multiple misdemeanors."
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The sweep was spearheaded by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) National Fugitive Operations program and was the most successful operation in the area of its kind.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice suggested that the success of the sweep does not necessarily indicate an increase in immigrants committing crimes but rather highlights the flawed policies of the area.
"One of the challenges we’re facing is because of state law and local policies, more individuals who are potentially deportable with significant criminal histories are being released onto the street instead of being turned over to ICE," Kice said. "I think to infer from [the sweep] that potentially foreign nationals are committing more crimes is flawed."
While ICE used to locate immigrants with criminal records with ease by contacting local jails to identify those migrants and directing the prisons to hold them until ICE officials picked them up, a federal judge last year deemed that practice illegal.
Now, hundreds of counties do not comply with ICE detainer requests, prompting the agency to engage in cost-inefficient manhunts and sweeps.
The sweep caught 191 immigrants from Mexico, and the remaining were from countries including France, Ghana, Peru, and Thailand. Some of those identified were not illegal immigrants to the United States but rather documented nationals who can now be deported because of recent criminal activity.
California has been particularly friendly to illegal immigrants to the country. The state passed a law that went into effect in January that requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue licenses to undocumented immigrant workers in the state.
As of July, illegal immigrants accounted for more than half of the driver’s licenses issued by the state in 2015.
A lawmaker in Huntington Park, California, recently prompted outrage by tapping two illegal immigrants to serve as commissioners on city advisory boards.
Earlier this summer, California woman Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant with multiple prior felony convictions who had been deported from the U.S. five times.
While he was jailed months before Steinle’s death for illegally selling marijuana, the immigrant was set free instead of being sent to ICE officials.