A man with an attempted murder conviction and a woman who has seven convictions for driving under the influence were among 150 people arrested this week in the Southland by federal agents targeting "criminal aliens" and other immigration violators, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Wednesday.
In announcing the arrests, ICE officials said in a statement that "the lack of cooperation from local jails is negatively impacting public safety."
About 40 percent of those arrested in the Sunday through-Tuesday sweep had previously been released by local law enforcement agencies despite ICE detainers asking arresting agencies to notify immigration officers prior to the suspect's release from custody, according to the ICE officials, who said that nearly all arrestees had prior criminal convictions.
"The state laws preventing ICE from working in the jails is significantly impacting public safety by letting serious repeat offenders back out onto our streets," said Thomas Giles, acting field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Los Angeles. "Our presence would be focused in the jails, rather than in the streets, and safer for all involved, if ICE could again coordinate transfers of criminal aliens with local jails."
Of those arrested, 76 were taken into custody in Los Angeles County, 34 in Orange County, and 16 in Riverside County. The arrestees -- 138 men and 12 women -- are from a dozen countries, with the majority of them -- 123 -- from Mexico, according to ICE.
In interviews with reporters at the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles, Giles said he wanted to clarify "the misconception that ICE goes out there and does random raids and sweeps and just picks people up."
The 150 arrestees were "targeted," he said, and agents had performed surveillance and done background checks before making the arrests.
Giles said the agency is continually hampered by Senate Bill 54 -- the so-called "sanctuary state" bill -- which, among other things, prohibits state and local law enforcement from using resources to investigate or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.
As a result of the lack of cooperation from local jails, "we have to go out in the communities to find these people -- and it puts community members and officers at risk," Giles said.