California heralded the new year by becoming a sanctuary state—meaning its politicians have prohibited local and state law enforcement from cooperating and communicating with federal immigration authorities in almost all cases.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has responded by stepping up enforcement in California.
An operation in the Los Angeles area this week netted 212 arrests of illegal immigrants and 122 notices of inspection to workplaces, according to an ICE press release on Feb. 16.
Of the 212 arrested, 195 were either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal and failed to depart the United States, or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally, ICE said.
More than 55 percent had prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges, and assault, or had past convictions for significant or multiple misdemeanors.
“Because sanctuary jurisdictions like Los Angeles prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, our officers are forced to conduct at-large arrests in the community, putting officers, the general public and the aliens at greater risk and increasing the incidents of collateral arrests,” said ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan.
Homan has said he will dedicate more resources to jurisdictions that do not cooperate with ICE. He is also pushing for Congressional intervention against sanctuary jurisdictions.
“If we can have Congress act on a sanctuary city … and make detainers legally viable—for instance, give the sheriffs the immunity, the protection; if they honor our detainers, the U.S. government will protect them,” Homan said on Feb. 2. “The police officers in this country support us. They want to honor the detainers. They just need legislation.”
A detainer is a request from ICE to hold an inmate for up to 48 hours longer so ICE can take custody, or it’s a request for the jail to alert ICE 48 hours before the inmate is to be released.
Homan said last year that he intended to step up searches for illegal aliens at workplaces.
“I just gave the instruction—I want to increase [it] by four to five times,” Homan said at an event at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 17.
“We’ve already increased the number of inspections in worksite operations. You’re going to see that significantly increase this next fiscal year.”
Homan said the difference with the new approach is that not only will employers be prosecuted, but ICE will detain and remove the illegal alien workers.
Arrests of aliens found at a workplace, but who are not authorized to work, plummeted during the Obama era—from over 1,600 arrests in fiscal year 2009 to 106 in fiscal 2016.
Worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor, and other illegal practices, said ICE.
In the recent Los Angeles operation, ICE served 122 notices of inspection to businesses, known as an I-9 audit. Similar notices of inspection were served to 77 businesses in northern California several weeks ago, said ICE.
“A notice of inspection alerts business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law,” ICE said in a statement.
“If the businesses are found to not be in compliance with the law, they will face civil fines and potential criminal prosecution.”
In fiscal year 2017, ICE conducted 1,360 such audits and made 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests.