Federal deportation officers staged one of the biggest enforcement actions in years against businesses in Los Angeles last week, arresting 212 people and serving audit notices to 122 businesses who will have to prove they aren’t hiring illegal immigrants.
Nearly all of those arrested were convicted criminals, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE said it targeted Los Angeles because it’s a sanctuary city, meaning it refuses to fully cooperate with federal authorities on deportations from within its jails.
That means agents and officers have to go out into the community, said Thomas D. Homan, the agency’s deputy director.
“Fewer jail arrests mean more arrests on the street, and that also requires more resources, which is why we are forced to send additional resources to those areas to meet operational needs and officer safety,” Mr. Homan said. “Consistent with our public safety mission, 88 percent of those arrested during this operation were convicted criminals.”
The actions and notices came even as Congress was debating — and failing to pass — legislation that would have legalized about a sixth of the illegal immigrant population in the U.S.
ICE said some of those nabbed will be prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry after a previous deportation, while others whose cases aren’t prosecuted will face deportation.
Perhaps more striking that the arrests, however, is the renewed focus on business that employ illegal immigrants.
The 122 notices come on top of 77 notices served on businesses in Northern California earlier this year.
ICE said California’s sanctuary city status notwithstanding, businesses are still required to follow federal law, which demands they conduct verification checks before hiring employees.
Democrats in Congress had objected to ICE’s attempts to enforce immigration laws at businesses.
In a Jan. 31 letter, 17 of the chamber’s more liberal lawmakers said they were “troubled” by the justifications ICE had cited for the previous round of business enforcement.
“ICE officers have a mission to promote homeland security and public safety, not to act as an arm of the government designed to intimidate and harass business owners, their employees or their patrons, and certainly not to use raids as a threat of ‘what’s to come,’” said the Democrats, led by Rep. Karen Bass of California.
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