Image via Bryan Cox/ICE via AP

ICE announced Tuesday that its officers arrested 650 people, including 38 minors, in a four-day operation last month. But over 450 of the people arrested–over 70%–weren’t even the ones ICE was looking for in the first place.

According to an announcement from ICE, the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officers arrested the 650 people as part of an effort aimed at “family units” and individuals who came to the U.S. as minors without a parent or legal guardian. The people were all either 18 years old now, or at least 16 years old but with “criminal histories and/or suspected gang ties.”

Advertisement

Yet of those 650 total people apprehended by ICE, just under a third of them were actually the intended targets of the operation, which the agency called “Operation Border Guardian/Border Resolve.”

Only 73 were actually members of family units, a term ICE uses to indicate “the number of individuals (to include a child under 18 years old, parent, or legal guardian) apprehended with a family member.” And only 120 came to the country as who ICE calls “unaccompanied alien children,” or minors without parents or legal guardians.

Doing the math, that means another 457 people were arrested who weren’t the intended targets of the operation, which lasted between July 23 and July 26. These collateral arrests, not part of the original operation, occurred because the allegedly undocumented people happened to be near an ICE enforcement action was happening.

Advertisement

“During enforcement operations like this one, ICE officers frequently encounter additional suspects who may be in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws,” a spokesperson told Splinter in an email. “Those persons will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and, when appropriate, arrested by ICE.”

According to the agency, 130 of the 650 people arrested–or 20%–“had criminal convictions in addition to being in the country illegally.” There was no word in the announcement on what made the other 520 individuals targets for apprehension.

“Suspected gang ties” aren’t defined in the ICE release, but as the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a statement last week, it has been interpreted in the past by other law enforcement organizations to encompass things such as “wearing a black t-shirt to school, playing soccer with suspected gang affiliates or for wearing clothing with the Chicago Bulls logo.”

The operation described in the ICE announcement sounds like the same one that prompted a disgruntled ICE agent to speak to the New Yorker about their concerns last week.

“I don’t see the point in it,” the agent told contributor Jonathan Blitzer about the operation. “The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. I don’t understand it. We’re doing it because we can, and it bothers the hell out of me.”

Advertisement

According to a statement from an ICE spokesperson emailed to Splinter, the operation was a “response to the significant spike in families and UACs from Central America attempting to illegally cross the southern border.” The spokesperson said the individuals arrested were citizens of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

All of the people targeted and apprehended “had been issued a final order of removal by a federal immigration judge,” according to the ICE announcement. Each will be handled on a case-by-case basis, the ICE spokesperson told Splinter.