Sept. 28 (UPI) -- In a four-day nationwide operation that targeted so-called sanctuary cities, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said its officers arrested almost 500 people on immigration violation charges.
Announcing the arrests in a news release Thursday, the agency said the operation took place Sunday through Wednesday in Illinois, Maryland, California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The agency's Enforcement and Removal Operations teams arrested more than 100 people in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
One of those arrested in Los Angeles was a member of the Colonia Chiques gang. The Mexican immigrant entered the United States without legal documentation and rammed a number of law enforcement vehicles just before his arrest, the agency said.
Of the 498 people people arrested, the agency said, 317 had past criminal convictions for crimes that ranged from rape to driving under the influence to obstructing justice. The initiative this week prioritized individuals with previous convictions, gang members, immigration fugitives and those people who have re-entered the United States after deportation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it did not target any beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In the agency's release, acting director Tom Homan criticized regions and municipalities, often known as sanctuary cities, that pass laws preventing local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration officers.
"Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration," Homan said. "As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities."
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told The Washington Post the raids were an intimidating move on the part of President Donald Trump's administration.
"These raids are simply another attempt by the president and his anti-immigrant chiefs to bully cities into undermining the constitutional protections of all [their] residents, irrespective of their immigration status," she said.