Fifty-one foreign nationals were arrested Thursday and Friday in the Austin area, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Of the 51 people arrested, ICE said 23 had criminal convictions. The agency said the operation targeted "public safety threats" and that arrests included:
- A citizen of Mexico previously removed from the United States, who was convicted of aggravated assault.
- A citizen of El Salvador who pled guilty to the sexual assault of a child.
- A citizen of Mexico convicted of domestic violence charges as a repeat offender.
Carlos Gonzales Gutierrez, the Mexican consul general in Austin, told The Texas Standard that many of the immigrants his office was able to speak with were specifically targeted by ICE, but there were many others who were caught "because they [were] in the wrong time in the wrong place.”
An ICE spokesperson refused to comment further. In an email, the agency said reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps that target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately are false.
The arrests have raised fear and concerns among the immigrant community in Austin. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that Austin had 100,000 unauthorized immigrants living here in 2014.
Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, who represents San Antonio, told KUT's Nathan Bernier that the raids should conclude by the end of the week. Castro said his office was told that more information about the operation would be made available after it ends.
“We continue to press ICE for more information, and we’ll do that every day this week until we get more information,” he said. “It’s important to know going forward whether this is just going to be some kind of Dragnet, as the president seemed to allude to during his campaign, and we need to figure out if that’s what he’s going forward with.”
The latest operation began in 2011 under the Obama administration as an annual large-scale national operation targeting immigrants convicted of crimes and targeting other people considered a priority. But White House aide Jason Miller told Fox News Sunday the immigration enforcement activities have been “greatly expanded.”
In a statement released Monday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said 680 people had been arrested in “targeted enforcement operations” across the country last week. Of those arrested, he said, about 75 percent were criminal aliens. He called the operations “routine” and consistent with the kind of targeted enforcement operations the agency has conducted for years.