Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be making good on his promise to crack down on sanctuary cities.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Thursday that they arrested 498 people in a four-day operation aimed at rounding up large groups of undocumented immigrants — specifically, those living in sanctuary cities.
ICE said the operation, dubbed “Operation Safe City,” targeted individuals with criminal convictions, as well as those that had re-entered the U.S. illegally from cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland. The arrests were concentrated in cities where “ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected immigration violators or jurisdictions where ICE detainers are not honored,” the agency said.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” ICE acting director Tom Homan said in a statement. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
A total of 107 people were arrested in Philadelphia, the most of any other city targeted in the raids. Philadelphia first became a sanctuary city in 2014 and in August sued Sessions for restricting federal grants from sanctuary cities.
Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney released a statement about the operation Thursday, saying ICE was only breeding distrust, ultimately producing more crime, not less.
“As I’ve stated many times, when our immigrant communities cannot trust law enforcement, they are less likely to want to work with them to fight crime,” Kenney said in a statement obtained by the Philly Voice. “Operation ‘Safe City’ does not make our city safer and further sows seeds of distrust between our police and immigrants.”
In September, NBC News reported that a plan dubbed “Operation Mega” targeting 8,400 undocumented immigrants had been canceled because of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
Asked whether “Operation Safe City” was the same as “Operation Mega,” ICE spokesperson, Sarah Rodriguez told VICE News, “ERO deportation officers enforce federal immigration laws every day. Part of that mission involves ongoing analysis of available intelligence that informs which enforcement actions the agency takes, whether it be a local or national operation.”
At the time, an internal document obtained by NBC noted that the operation would constitute “the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE.”