- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2020

ICE officers surged to the streets of California last week and rounded up 128 undocumented immigrants who had been released by local governments under sanctuary policies, as part of an aggressive new stance against sanctuary jurisdictions.

The operation is the latest escalation in a campaign by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to shame communities that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation officials.

Among those caught was a 40-year-old Salvadoran who had been convicted of first-degree murder in 2009 and supposed to serve a lengthy sentence.

Yet ICE says he was already released by the Los Angeles County Jail in defiance of a deportation detainer request. ICE officers picked the man up Sept. 29 in Los Angeles.

Also caught was a 50-year-old Mexican who ICE says had served a sentence for conspiracy to commit murder, but who was also released by the Los Angeles County Jail. ICE officers caught that man Sept. 28, and since he already had a final deportation order in place he was sent to Mexico the same day.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf called the operation a “stunning success,” and said it should signal to sanctuary jurisdictions that they can’t shield immigrants who are in the country illegally from consequences of federal law.

“Political leaders who support sanctuary city policies must stop putting politics over the public safety of their cities,” he said.

Dubbed Operation Rise, the surge targeted the San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. ICE said 95% of those arrested had prior convictions or pending criminal charges, and had been released by local or state authorities under sanctuary policies.

The California surge comes days after ICE announced it was buying billboard space in Pennsylvania to highlight criminals released under sanctuary policies in that state.

And earlier this fall Homeland Security sent a stern letter trying to shame the Los Angeles County sheriff, who implemented a permanent policy refusing all cooperation in turning over undocumented immigrants to ICE. That goes beyond California’s sanctuary law, which still allows sheriffs to alert ICE when serious criminals are being released.

Across the country in New York, ICE said Wednesday it arrested a Surenos gang leader who had just last month been arrested by the New York Police Department on robbery, weapons possession and stolen property charges — then released, in defiance of an ICE detainer request.

Fernando Olea-Prado, 25, had already been deported twice 2013, and was on ICE’s target list.

Thomas R. Decker, head of ICE’s deportation operations at its New York field office, called the release by local police “reprehensible.”

“Where is the concern for the safety of the citizens that these local politicians were elected to protect?” he said.

Both New York City and Los Angeles now operate under strict sanctuary policies.

Los Angeles, because of its size and demographics, used to be the largest source in the country of deportees picked up from jails. ICE says it now gets zero cooperation.

The county sheriff’s office told The Washington Times earlier this fall that ICE has abandoned it first. And the sheriff’s office said cooperating with ICE taints its own deputies, making it less likely that immigrants report crimes for fear of getting entangled with deportations.

Tony Pham, ICE’s chief, said Wednesday that’s not the case when detainers are involved. Those are specific requests to be notified of the upcoming release from a jail or prison of a deportable migrant.

“All they need to do is call us,” Mr. Pham said.

He pointed to the 2018 death of Rocky Jones, killed by a twice-deported undocumented immigrant who’d been set free by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office just days before, under California’s sanctuary policies.

“A phone call would have saved Mr. Rocky Jones,” Mr. Pham said. “Crimes committed after a removable alien is released into the community are all preventable.”

Trump critics, though, complained about the arrests of more than 100 people with criminal records. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus called it “a political stunt.”

“Reducing trust and exacerbating tensions between communities and law enforcement is the real threat to public safety,” the caucus tweeted.

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