U.S. immigration agents are planning to detain and deport more than 1,500 illegal immigrants in a massive California operation meant to send a clear message to the so-called sanctuary state, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials declined to comment on the specifics of the operation Tuesday, but it reportedly planned to take place within the next few weeks, the Chronicle reported. California officially became a “sanctuary state” at the beginning of January, meaning state and local law enforcement are prohibited in most cases from working with federal agents to deport illegal immigrants.
ICE officers will be flown into California from across the country to carry out the operation, which will target areas where illegal immigrants are being illegally employed, an unnamed ICE source told the Chronicle. The operation would be the largest enforcement action of President Donald Trump’s time in office if it does indeed capture more than 1,500 illegal immigrants.
In response to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation, an ICE spokesman said “We are not able to speculate about future enforcement actions.”
Previous ICE domestic operations under President Trump haven’t bagged more than a few hundred illegal immigrants at a time, but the organization did participate in a massive international gang enforcement operation that charged 3,800 gang members. The coordinated action known as Operation Regional Shield involved law enforcement units from the U.S., El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. U.S. forces arrested more than 70 gang members; Guatemala charged 284; Honduras seized 14 businesses and arrested 12, and El Salvador charged more than 3,400 and made over 1,400 arrests.
Domestically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been extremely hostile to sanctuary jurisdictions, and Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan holds the same view. Homan slammed Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown for signing California’s sanctuary state bill on Fox News earlier this month. He warned that “California better hold on tight,” because if state lawmakers “don’t want to protect their communities, then ICE will.”
California lawmakers didn’t take Homan’s warning well, with several state legislators writing a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen requesting that she intervene.
“The statements are a direct threat to Californians. These statements are reprehensible and the department’s change in policy will instill fear in our communities,” the letter read. “Acting Director Homan’s attack on sanctuary cities is not only an infringement of state rights but a direct assault on communities of color.”
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