(AFP) Nearly 200 people have been arrested by federal agents in southern California as part of a five-day operation targeting immigrants convicted of crimes or in the country illegally, officials said Thursday.
The crackdown, which ended Wednesday and was spearheaded by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), focused on people with prior criminal offenses including for drug trafficking, rape and domestic violence, authorities said.
“Operations like this are emblematic of the vital work ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers do every day, seeking to locate, arrest, and ultimately deport at-large convicted criminals and other immigration fugitives who pose a threat to public safety,” David Marin, the ERO director in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
“By taking these individuals off the streets and removing them from the country, we’re making our communities safer for everyone,” he added.
The raids took place amid a surge in such operations since President Donald Trump took office in January vowing to deport as many as three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
A similar large-scale crackdown in February in at least half a dozen states netted hundreds of undocumented immigrants including some without criminal records, prompting an uproar among rights groups.
Authorities said the latest crackdown led to the arrest of a 29-year-old Salvadoran national convicted of rape in California and a previously deported 51-year-old Mexican man who had been convicted of cocaine trafficking.
More than two dozen of those arrested also had been convicted of domestic violence and driving under the influence.
The suspects, 177 men and 11 women, included nationals from 11 countries.
The majority, 146, are from Mexico while two are from Russia and one from Cambodia.
Most of the arrests took place in the Los Angeles area.
According to federal authorities, more than 41,000 people have been arrested by ICE since Trump signed an executive order in January strengthening immigration enforcement policies.
The number represents a 40 per cent increase over the same period in 2016.