“The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in a statement commending the agency’s efforts.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City areas arrested more than 680 individuals over the course of five days. These individuals, mostly men, were arrested at their place of work, private residences, or other public places they may have been when they were tracked down by ICE fugitive teams.
The detentions were indeed business as usual for the ICE Fugitive Operations teams—last week’s raids were them in turbo mode. The agency detained roughly two and a half times more immigrants last week than they do in the average week.
Immigrants rights activists say that these raid operations that result in a surge in arrests are orchestrated simultaneously around the country to induce fear into the community. And they may finally have some data to support those claims.
According to a report published this week of records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, ICE fugitive operations teams arrests and deport about 250 individuals per week, meaning one of every five of ICE’s 1,250 weekly arrest and deportations were connected to a raid.
The TRAC report found the vast majority of immigrants are transferred to ICE custody from other law enforcement agencies—not as a result of ICE agents knocking on someone's door seeking to arrest the person that lives there.
For decades, local law enforcement agencies have submitted fingerprints to the FBI to confirm identities and any previous criminal records. ICE began formally sifting through the fingerprint database after 2008 when a program called “Secure Communities” was introduced under the administration of George W. Bush and vastly expanded under Barack Obama in 2011.
Immigrant rights activists have criticized the controversial “Secure Communities” program because it led to the deportation of immigrants who had committed minor infractions, like traffic violations. Independent researchers found the program had “not served its central objective of making communities safer.” Obama ended the program in 2014 but Trump relaunched the program five days into his presidency, on January 25.
“ICE became aware of these arrests since all fingerprints local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies submit to the FBI are now automatically passed along to ICE. ICE checks these against its records to see if the individual may be deportable,” the TRAC report reads.
TRAC says the data in their report was obtained from ICE in response to hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests, appeals, and a successful lawsuit.
The group says the data presented in the report now provides immigrant rights leaders and attorneys a baseline against which arrests under the new Trump administration can be compared.
ICE did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Despite the fact that the majority of ICE detainees are transferred into their custody, leaders in the immigrant rights movement say it’s raid operations like last week’s surge that hit immigrant communities with a massive wave of fear and panic.
“The Trump regime has emboldened ICE agents who are creating a climate of extreme fear and anxiety,” said Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization.
Bill Ong Hing, an immigration law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, said the latest raids have caused more panic in immigrant communities because they come after months of Trump promising a so-called deportation force on the campaign trail. Then as president, he introduced a travel ban and other immigration executive orders, leading many to interpret the raids as the beginning of the deportation force Trump warned of during the election.
“[ICE] wants to scare the hell out of people, they want people to live in fear,” said Hing.
Hing, who also runs the Deportation Defense Clinic at the law school, added: “Many people have always lived with fear and they led their lives with caution, but this could discourage people from coming out of their homes.”
The anxiety isn’t unfounded considering the Obama administration deported more immigrants than any other president. Experts say Trump could target five times the number of immigrants Obama prioritized for deportation.
“We don’t know where the next immigration raids will be. We don’t know what they will try next to silence and control us,” Cristina Jimenez, of United We Dream, said in a statement.
She went on to say, “Where they attack us, we will grow stronger. Our courage, determination and creativity will prevail.”