Yahoo News —
Donald Trump has declared that the immigration raids carried out last week were “the keeping of a campaign promise” – a statement which puts him directly at odds with his immigration officials, who spent Saturday repeatedly insisting that the raids were long-planned and routine.
Agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested hundreds of illegal immigrants across at least seven states last week – detaining people at their workplaces, arresting them in shopping centre car parks, and taking them from their homes. Some of those detained were deported back to Mexico.
Amid a rash of headlines about the dawn of the Trump administration’s “deportation regime”, ICE officials went to great lengths to stress that there were no new instructions.
Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, said they were part of “routine” immigration enforcement actions.
David Marin, ICE field office director for enforcement and removal operations in greater Los Angeles, said the agency carries out these operations two or three times a year in his region. He said the California operation was in the planning stages “before the administration came out with their current executive orders.”
Carl Rusnok, spokesman for the ICE’s Dallas regional office, also agreed, and said he knew of no local operations as a result of Mr Trump’s executive order.
“There are always things going on on a daily basis,” said Mr Rusnok. “People don’t sit on their hands here. That is nothing new.”
The agency called it an “enforcement surge” that was no different than enforcement actions carried out in the past and said a “rash of recent reports about purported ICE checkpoints and random sweeps are false, dangerous, and irresponsible.”
But Mr Trump on Sunday morning appeared to disagree.
“The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” he tweeted.
On the campaign trail Mr Trump promised to deport three million illegal immigrants.
Barack Obama also made curbing illegal immigration a priority – removing people from the country with such speed he earnt himself the nickname the King of Deportations. Over two million were deported under his presidency, and at its peak in 2012 he forced out 409,000 people – more than any other president.
Stung by criticism, his administration softened his policy in its second term and removed only people with felony convictions.
But Mr Trump has promised to be even tougher.
The majority of those arrested last week had criminal records but some were for misdemeanour crimes, such as traffic violations. Others reportedly had no criminal record at all.
And the arrests of an unknown number of people sparked fear among immigrant communities, and consternation among immigrant rights’ groups.
Joaquin Castro, a Democrat politician from Texas, said he was urgently seeking information about those detained.
“I have been informed by ICE that the agency’s San Antonio field office has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check,” said Mr Castro.
“I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state.”
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