- Associated Press - Friday, August 31, 2018

PHOENIX (AP) - Russians, Peruvians and Mexicans were among 78 immigrants arrested last week in Arizona during a weeklong operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, officials said Friday.

The agency’s Phoenix field office director, Henry Lucero, said the effort included arrests of many people previously convicted of serious crimes such as aggravated assault, kidnapping, drug trafficking and domestic violence. Nearly 30 of those arrested had driving under the influence convictions.

“As a result of this operation, Arizona is a safer place to reside,” Lucero said.

Lucero said many of those arrested are now in deportation proceedings. Several will face criminal charges for illegal re-entry.

Their identities were not made public but the arrests included people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Russia.

In one example, a Russian immigrant was arrested on suspicion of being a human smuggler. In Flagstaff, a 36-year-old Mexican man with a 2004 conviction for sexually-motivated aggravated assault was arrested.

Lucero said in average weeks, the agency’s Arizona officers book more than 1,000 immigrants into custody, remove 300 people from the country, take 150 people from county jails after they’re released and raid drop houses, including one in the Phoenix area recently that netted the arrest of 19 immigrants and the seizure of an illegally-owned automatic rifle.

Lucero said Arizona is the second-busiest area for ICE officers in the country.

ICE has come under scrutiny in the past year over arrests of immigrants who are out with their kids and for deportations of parents who were separated from their children at the border.

Immigration activists have launched a movement to abolish the agency. It has become an issue in local, state and federal elections, but many candidates don’t believe it’s a feasible idea.

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