By QUINN OWEN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week announced the end of a series of nationally coordinated arrests that resulted in more than 2,000 immigrants taken into custody.
The vast majority of those arrested had a prior criminal charge or conviction while 15% did not. Assault and domestic violence topped the list of charges and convictions held by those arrested. The agency tallied the data as individual charges and convictions, meaning a single person could have more than one.
The nationally coordinated operations were run out of all 24 national ICE field offices. Eighty-three people were arrested in New York City, 77 arrests were made in New Jersey, 67 in Phoenix and more than 300 were made in Los Angeles.
ICE made 2,536 at-large or community arrests from the beginning of July through Aug. 22, according to the latest stats provided by the agency.
The arrests came despite limits on ICE operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. So far this budget year, ICE has made 94,490 arrests overall compared to 143,099 arrests in the same time last year.
Henry Lucero, the head of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, said noncriminal immigration violators could have been targeted by ICE if they had repeated violations or a deportation order.
“That’s really a variety of cases that may have been targeted during this operation because we had a viable lead,” Lucero said. “It also could mean that we were targeting individuals that were part of this operation and came across others.”
Lucero said agents have been working under new protective equipment protocols and providing masks and gloves to those arrested. The operation required ICE to redirect and focus other department resources on the targeted removal operations. The agency announced in March that the coronavirus crisis required it to focus on criminal targets.
“We never said we were going to stop arresting individuals,” Lucero told reporters on Tuesday. “We said we were going to prioritize and focus on those who were public safety threats and that’s exactly what we did during this operation.”
The pandemic also forced the agency to significantly reduce the number of detainees it holds in custody. The average number of immigrants held at the civil detention facilities was just over 20,000 at the end of August, compared to just over 50,000 last year. More than 5,400 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 and six have died after contracting the virus, according to ICE statistics.
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