As a rhetorical exercise, however, the operation amounts to a vigorous effort to echo the president’s claims that a victory by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would sow lawlessness and leave Americans unsafe.
Homeland Security acting secretary Chad Wolf and interim ICE chief Tony Pham were in Philadelphia to promote “Operation Rise” and to slam jurisdictions that have adopted policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officers.
“This campaign would be entirely unnecessary if local leaders would do their jobs and protect their communities by partnering with federal law enforcement,” Wolf told reporters. “Sanctuary city policies are a threat to the homeland and put the safety of the American people in jeopardy so that certain local politicians can score cheap political points at the cost of American lives and safety.”
ICE officers have the authority to make immigration arrests anywhere, but sanctuary jurisdictions typically don’t oblige the agency’s requests to hold on to suspects longer than necessary so ICE can pick them up inside local jails. In those jurisdictions, ICE officers have to find out when the suspects will be released or track them down at their homes and workplaces, requiring more time and effort.
In Philadelphia, the agency has paid for billboards showing the mug shots of immigrants with criminal convictions wanted for deportation. Their crimes include assault and drug possession with “intent to deliver a controlled substance.” ICE officials described the immigrants as a grave danger to public safety.
“Sanctuary policies result in criminal aliens being released right back to the community where they can reoffend and prey upon innocent people, including our children,” Pham said.
Pham said that more than 80 percent of the 170 immigrants ICE arrested last week had a criminal conviction or a “pending criminal charge.” But ICE did not respond to requests for statistics indicating what percentage of those taken into custody were convicted of violent crimes.
The agency’s “criminal” category also includes suspects with federal immigration violations, such as reentering the United States illegally after a previous deportation. Among those arrested last week, ICE highlighted the cases of three immigrants charged with sex crimes against a minor, one convicted of child abuse and another released by local authorities in Charlottesville after an arrest on charges of forgery, identity theft and driving without a license.
Pham also confirmed Friday that ICE began using more expansive enforcement authorities this month, applying its “expedited removal” procedures nationwide. Under those rules — previously limited to areas near international borders — the agency can fast-track the deportation of anyone suspected of being in the country fewer than two years if they cannot prove they are present in the United States legally.
The change has alarmed attorneys and immigrant advocates concerned that ICE will whisk deportees out of the country without a chance to see an immigration judge. Pham said the process will allow individuals to present their immigration status claims to ICE officials to ensure they don’t deport people with legal status.