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In a statement, ICE said the raid was the result of a gang investigation.

“Information derived from two gang members previously arrested in an ICE gang operation led to the initiation of the work-site investigation at Yamato Engine Specialists,” said press secretary Kelly Nantel. “Follow-up investigation uncovered a potentially large number of illegally employed workers. ICE conducted the operation in order to identify and if appropriate, apprehend any unauthorized workers and to further determine potential criminal activity.”

Mr. Noorani said “ankle chains and helicopters” were both used in the raid, but Ms. Napolitano denied in her testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee that helicopters were used.

She said she had been briefed on the raid, but still has many questions.

“I want to get to the bottom of this as well, so I’ve already issued those directives to ICE to get me some answers,” she said.

She is still getting her key people in place. Mr. Obama nominated John Morton, a Justice Department official, to head ICE earlier this week.

Ms. Napolitano said she expects ICE actions at work sites to focus on employers “who intentionally and knowingly exploit the illegal labor market.”

“That has impacts on American workers, it has impacts on wage levels, often has undue impacts on the illegal workers themselves, and our ICE efforts should be focused on those sorts of things and we should really have thought through the prosecutions that are going to result and the deportations that will result after any sort of work-force action,” she said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who questioned Miss Napolitano on the raids, said the laws need to be enforced but said raids, including Tuesday’s, have swept up legal residents and citizens as well.

“There is concern that Americans have repeatedly, in the past years, been held in some cases for 10 and 11 hours against their will, and it does not seem to comport with the requirements of the law or the Constitution,” she said, asking the secretary to address that issue in her review.