An effort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants resulted in 500 arrests nationwide this week, with 27 of those occurring in Santa Clara and San Francisco counties. The four-day operation ended on Wednesday.
ICE spokesperson James Schwab told Bay City News that the local operation — ironically titled Bay Area Safe City — targeted the two aforementioned counties specifically because they are sanctuary jurisdictions, and do not allow ICE agents to interview suspected immigration violators in jail.
All 27 were from Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras. Any of the arrestees who have pending deportation orders, or who entered the United States illegally after being deported, may be immediately kicked out of the country, according to Schwab.
Of those arrested, 23 had prior criminal convictions, ranging in severity from driving under the influence to drug trafficking and assault. One Mexican citizen who was arrested in San Jose allegedly overstayed his visa by more than 10 years, and had prior convictions for drug trafficking and felony child abuse. A Salvadoran man apprehended by ICE in the recent sweep was convicted for having sex with a minor under the age of 16 (no details were available on how old he was at the time of the crime). Another eight who were arrested had been convicted of driving under the influence.
The arrests come at an interesting time for San Francisco: the trial of Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant who fired a gun that killed 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in 2015, will begin next month. President Donald Trump has blasted sanctuary cities for their lenient attitudes toward immigrants without a legal status, threatening to remove federal funding and showing his support for “beautiful Kate Steinle,” who was “gunned down in S.F. by an illegal immigrant.”
In a nod to another heated immigration battle, Schwab made a point of noting that those with active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status were not targeted, despite a recent threat by Trump to end the Obama-era program, which provides a level of amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
The officers involved in the arrests were agents from the San Francisco field office, whose territory stretches all the way from Bakersfield to the California Oregon border.