An immigration enforcement operation that President Donald Trump called an effort to deport "millions" of immigrants from the USA resulted in 35 arrests, officials said Tuesday.
The action, dubbed "Operation Border Resolve" by the Trump administration, was touted as a significant show of force against an influx of Central American families crossing the border. The operation targeted 2,100 of the roughly 1 million people illegally in the USA with final deportation orders.
Of those arrested, 18 were members of families, and 17 were collateral apprehensions of people in the country illegally who were encountered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. None of those arrests resulted in family separations, agency officials said.
The raids were condemned by Democrats and lauded by Republicans. Career ICE agents described them as a routine procedure, saying they expected to net an average of 10% to 20% of their targets.
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"We are focused on criminals as much as we can before we do anything else," Trump said before the raids.
ICE conducted a separate nationwide enforcement operation targeting undocumented immigrants who had criminal convictions or charges. That operation netted 899 arrests from May 13 to July 11, according to agency officials.
The agency issued 3,282 notices of inspection to businesses in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, telling business owners that their hiring records would be audited to see whether they employ undocumented immigrants.
This process, sometimes called "silent raids," is intended to "reduce economic opportunities" for undocumented immigrants, according to acting ICE Director Matthew Albence.
“We cannot have individuals who come into the country illegally and then go find work illegally," Albence said in an interview with The New York Times.
Albence said the apprehension efforts would be "ongoing," claiming that increased enforcement could reduce illegal immigration.
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“Part of the way you stop people from coming is having a consequence to the illegal activity when you do come,” he said.
The initial operation, scheduled for late June, targeted families and centered on those ordered to be deported by an immigration judge in 10 cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Miami and New York City.
That wave of raids was postponed after media outlets reported when and where they would take place. Trump announced the delay after a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who urged him to do so.
The second effort started July 14, again receiving media attention noting when and where the raids would take place. Trump also called attention to the raids on Twitter, noting the date himself.
Albence conceded that the number of arrests was lower compared with similar operations. An operation in 2017 resulted in 650 apprehensions over four days, according to ICE. Among those arrested were 73 family members and 120 people who entered the country as children.
In addition to weather challenges – operations were suspended in New Orleans because of a tropical storm – Albence said publicity inhibited actions that rely on secrecy and surprise. The success of previous efforts can partly be attributed to the lack of "fanfare and media attention," Albence said.
Advocates said many immigrants simply stayed home. Immigrant-heavy churches in areas where the raids where scheduled had noticeably lower attendance, and businesses in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami reported very light traffic.
Although the raids resulted in a low number of arrests – less than 2% of the population targeted – the Trump administration has not slowed its efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
Monday, the administration promised to expand the Department of Homeland Security's ability to deport immigrants through "expedited removal" if they can't prove they have been in the country continuously during the past two years.
A week ago, the administration announced it would restrict asylum requests for Central American migrants, requiring them to make asylum claims in other countries first. Lawsuits against the rule are pending.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ICE raids, touted by President Donald Trump, net 35 arrests