U.S. immigration officials have confirmed the arrest of 331 individuals during a month-long series of raids throughout the Midwest.
Most of the undocumented immigrants were adult males who were netted during raids in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas, and Missouri, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE told Fusion the deportation raids—the second major operation this year—were conducted between May 9 and June 13, and that no minors were detained in the roundup.
The raids were “the latest effort by ICE to arrest and remove convicted criminal aliens,” according to a statement released by ICE. The statement says the detained men all have prior convictions including burglary, domestic violence, sex crimes, and driving while under the influence.
“Our dedicated officers strive to make our communities safer by arresting convicted criminal aliens and removing them from the United States," Ricardo Wong, field office director for Enforcement and Removal Operations in Chicago, said in a statement. "By focusing our resources on the most egregious offenders, we ensure the very best use of our resources while immediately improving public safety.”
But immigrant rights groups in the Midwest say ICE raids are doing more harm than good.
“ICE claims their raids make communities safer, but in fact ICE makes us all less safe by traumatizing families, robbing children of their parents and making immigrant community members afraid to cooperate with law enforcement to report crimes,” Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group in Milwaukee, said in a statement.
The group also questions whether the operation is really targeting hardened criminals.
“In these raids ICE arrested the son-in-law of one of our members, and the only offense on his record is a 10-year-old conviction for working with a made-up Social Security Number. He is not a threat to anyone,” said Neumann-Ortiz.
Chicago was the hardest hit by the riads. In the Windy City ICE nabbed 106 males and one female, and rights activists worry it will only exacerbate racial tensions.
“The ICE raids in Chicago shows the cycle of abuse where racist policing results in convictions that are then used to justify raids on our neighbors and loved ones,” said Tania Unzueta, policy director for the #Not1More campaign.
“When our city has such a documented problem between police and communities of color, for ICE to be raiding our homes based on that is throwing gas on a fire,” Unzueta told Fusion in a telephone interview Monday morning.
The Midwest raids appear to be the ones warned about last month in an ICE leak to Reuters. Immigrant rights groups called the leaked information “fear mongering,” and have called on the White House to investigate who released details about the impending raids to the press.
In January, a separate ICE operation detained 121 adults and children in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina. News of the raids on social media led to a frenzy of rumors of impending raids across the country.