U.S. immigration authorities made a series of arrests in at least half a dozen states across the country on Thursday and Friday, sweeping up an unknown number of undocumented immigrants, immigration lawyers and advocates said.
The raids, which appeared to target scores of people, including those without criminal records, mark the first largescale episode of immigration enforcement inside the United States since President Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally. Immigration lawyers and advocates said some of the enforcement efforts included traffic stops and checkpoints, though Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials disputed those accounts, saying the agency does not use checkpoints while engaging in targeted enforcement operations.
It also appeared to signal a departure from the Obama administration’s position of prioritizing immigration enforcement against criminals. Trump has pledged to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
Word of the raids quickly circulated among immigrants, activists and on social media, creating such widespread panic in immigrant communities that a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the department had decided to take the unprecedented step of confirming some details of the raids while they were ongoing.
Gillian Christensen, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, confirmed that agents this week had raided homes and workplaces in Atlanta, the Los Angeles area and two other cities that she declined to identify, as part of “routine” immigration enforcement actions. ICE does not use the term raids.