Is ICE expanding immigration enforcement? Advocates say yes.

In Los Angeles, Austin, and Phoenix, protestors have mobilized quickly to demand the release of specific detainees, as other immigrant-rights groups say raids and other enforcement actions are on the rise.

Steve Fluty/AP
Members of the family of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos (l.) stand with supporters at a news conference in front of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Garcia de Rayos was deported Thursday morning, Feb. 9, 2017, after protests.

Demonstrators in Los Angeles held a vigil Thursday night at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office and blocked a downtown freeway in protest of what advocates described as a wave of home raids carried out by immigration agents across Southern California.

ICE agents have not released data on how many people were detained on Thursday and told local news station KTLA that arrests were “routine” – not the beginning of the mass deportations promised by President Trump during his campaign.

But some local and state lawmakers, in California and elsewhere, confirmed reports from immigrant-rights groups about expanded operations by immigration authorities, putting a spotlight on enforcement in the wake of a Trump executive action that lifted many of the Obama-era restrictions on who agents should and shouldn’t target. 

In Los Angeles, California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, a Democrat, told local station ABC7 that 134 people had been detained during an ICE sweep on Thursday, adding that he had asked the agency to disclose further details. He also differed with an ICE spokesperson’s characterization of many of the detainees as gang members, child sex offenders, and drug traffickers: 

"It is now clear the Trump Administration is not concerned with public safety, they are only focused on ripping hard-working men, women, and children from their families and communities,” Senator de Leon told the station.

In Austin, Texas, more than two dozen protestors gathered in front of a federal building downtown on Thursday night, according to the Austin American-Statesman, after a Honduran landscaper was detained during a traffic stop. Reyna Alvarado, the man’s wife, told the paper through a translator that she and her husband had fled Honduras 10 years ago after gangs killed several of her family members.

In a separate incident coming in that city, an ICE officer was briefly hospitalized after being injured during the arrest of a man during a traffic stop. Austin police told the Statesman that family members had tried to intervene as the immigration agent sought to take the man into custody. 

The city's interim police chief said ICE had not informed him of any changes in operations. But Austin Council Member Greg Casar pointed to “a large amount of Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions in Austin in the last 24 hours,” in a statement to the newspaper, and accused the agency of “retaliation” against the city for its protection of immigrants.

Those incidents came a day after Arizona mother Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who had turned up to an ICE facility for a routine check-in, was suddenly taken into custody by authorities. Ms. Garcia de Rayos, who had been convicted of using a fake Social Security number in 2008, was deported on Thursday, despite protestors who blocked vehicles from leaving an ICE facility in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Republic.

Some authorities have warned of misinformation spread on social media about immigration enforcement operations. Police in Pomona, Calif., alerted the public against rumors that the agency was participating in immigration checkpoints – rumors the department said were “fake news,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles deputy police chief Bob Green also pointed to false information about the department’s hand in immigration actions.

“We are working hard with the immigrant communities to dispel fears,” he told the newspaper.

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