Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Federal immigration authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in a series of raids across the country this week in what officials said where routine efforts to target known criminals.
Immigration officials confirmed the raids, aimed at targeting people living in the United States illegally who have criminal convictions, netted some who did not have criminal records. Officials said those people had been deported and illegally returned to the U.S. or were in the country without documents.
Officials said agents conducted raids of homes and workplaces as well as other operations in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the raids began on Monday and ended at noon on Friday, discovering undocumented immigrants from a dozen Latin American countries.
David Marin, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in California, said the raids were routine "surge operations" targeting people living in the United States illegally who have criminal convictions.
"We made 161 arrests, and of those 161, 151 of those had prior criminal convictions," he said. "The majority of them were felons and those felons which had prior convictions included sex offenses, domestic violence, assault, robbery and weapons violations, just to name a few."
Officials said 37 of the people who were detained in Los Angeles have since been deported to Mexico.
Some immigrant advocacy groups have questioned whether the raids were routine and said the raids had caused panic among immigrants.
"What they're trying to do is a really concerted effort to instill fear and terrorize our communities," David Abud, an organizer with Los Angeles-based National Day Labor Organizing Network said. "It's a way in which Trump and ICE are retaliating against sanctuary jurisdictions."
Raids were also conducted under the Obama administration, which sent a record 400,000 people back to their birth countries when the administration's deportations were at their highest in 2012.
Obama's administration later changed the policy to prioritize deporting convicted criminals. A DHS official confirmed that Trump's executive order provided a broader range including non-criminals lacking documentation.
Federal immigration officials and activists said the majority of those detained in the most recent raids were adult men, but it is unclear how many would have been excluded under Obama's policy.