- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nearly 300 people have been arrested in California in what federal officials are calling the largest sweep to date targeting illegal immigrants who have criminal records.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday that 286 illegal immigrants were detained in statewide sweeps during the past three days. More than 80 percent of those arrested have criminal records that include rape, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, according to ICE.

ICE said 30 convicted sex offenders, many of whom had been convicted of sexual assaults on children, were among those detained.

“Legal immigration is an important part of our country’s history, and the American dream exists for many immigrants. However, that dream involves playing by the rules, and those who break our criminal laws will be removed from the country,” said ICE director John Morton. “Sadly, many of the people victimized by aliens who commit crimes are other members of the immigrant community, who are following the rules.”

Under the Obama administration, ICE has made a policy of targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records. One of the purposes of that policy is to avoid allegations that illegal immigrants are being subjected to racial profiling and arrested on minor charges.

Immigration raids have been met with consistent criticisms, including the assertion that such raids essentially leave orphaned the children of those men and women who are arrested and subsequently deported. Critics also have blasted the practice of ICE agents being given quotas to determine the number of illegal immigrants they needed to round up, but Mr. Morton said last summer he had put an end to that practice.

Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said his group is pleased that the administration has kept its pledge to focus its efforts on illegal immigrants who have criminal records. But Mr. Cabrera said he also would like to know the seriousness of the crimes committed by those who were detained.

“Obviously, our preference would be that these types of raids on honest, hardworking immigrants would not continue,” Mr. Cabrera told The Washington Times.

Those arrested in California this week include convicted robber Ulises Vazuiz Arucha, 37, a Guatemalan who had been deported previously and has ties to a Los Angeles street gang, according to ICE. Ignacio Camacho-Madrigal, 43, a Mexican convicted of committing a lewd act on a child younger than 14, also had been deported before being arrested this week.

The two men are among at least 17 people who will face federal prosecution for illegally re-entering the U.S. after being deported, ICE said. A conviction on that charge carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.

The illegal immigrants who are not facing criminal prosecution will face deportation after hearings in immigration court. They will remain incarcerated pending a deportation order, ICE said.

At least 100 of those arrested have already been removed from the U.S., according to ICE.

Most of the arrests, 119, took place in Northern California. ICE said 96 illegal immigrants were arrested in the Los Angeles area, and 71 were arrested in San Diego and Imperial counties.

ICE said 257 men and 29 women from more than 30 countries in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East were arrested during the sweep.

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