More than 680 arrested in targeted nationwide ICE operations

Teresa Velazquez

"We are actually taking people that are criminals -- very, very hardened criminals in some cases with a tremendous track record of abuse and problems -- and we are getting them out", he said in response to a reporter's question about border security.

The report released by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center estimates more than 2 million immigrants in the country illegally lived in the two areas in 2014.

Preliminary reports from southern California give an indication of the scope of the ICE operations.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested more than 680 immigrants in the past week as part of a nationwide enforcement surge targeting people with criminal histories, according to a press release from Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said the efforts were "routine" and no different than the targeted arrests carried out under former President Barack Obama.

And while he said the recent ICE raids were similar to those that happened in the past, the fear of deportation within immigrant communities is higher than it was under Obama, because Trump has "vastly expanded" his enforcement priorities and is sticking with campaign promises to be tough on immigration.

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News this week that federal agents have targeted six U.S. states in a series of immigration enforcement raids has intensified growing fear and anxiety in the Ghanaian immigrant community - even among families with legal status. "They're terrified", Gerry Chapman said.

For instance, last week's ICE arrests included "collateral damage", or people who were picked up despite not being targeted in the operations - because, for example, they were in the same place as a person who was targeted, and did not have documentation.

"We want them to be ready", she says. Of those arrested, he said, about 75 percent were criminal aliens.

Agency officials said ICE does not conduct "sweeps, checkpoint or raids that target aliens indiscriminately". None of the operations occurred in Utah, but some say the actions are a sign of how the Trump Administration will implement immigration policy. "Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!" While insisting the focus remained on those with criminal convictions, or foreigners who posed national security threats, the Obama administration routinely rounded up and deported what the Times termed "low-priority immigrants".

United States president Donald Trump has defended the detention of hundreds of immigrants by federal authorities in recent days, describing the action as a fulfilment of his campaign promises.

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