Feds Planning Massive Northern California Immigration Sweep to Strike Against Sanctuary Law

Hamed Aleaziz, San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 2018

U.S. immigration officials have begun preparing for a major sweep in San Francisco and other Northern California cities in which federal officers would look to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented people while sending a message that immigration policy will be enforced in the sanctuary state, according to a source familiar with the operation.

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The campaign, centered in the Bay Area, could happen within weeks, and is expected to become the biggest enforcement action of its kind under President Trump, said the source, who requested anonymity because the plans have not been made public.

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The operation would go after people who have been identified as targets for deportation, including those who have been served with final deportation orders and those with criminal histories, the source said. The number could tick up if officers come across other undocumented immigrants in the course of their actions and make what are known as collateral arrests.

The sweep would represent the first large-scale effort to target the region since Gov. Jerry Brown in October signed legislation enacting a statewide sanctuary law. Supporters say the law allows undocumented immigrants to cooperate with local police and seek education, health care and other public services without worrying they will expose themselves to possible deportation.

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan {snip} that the federal government would not allow California to be “a sanctuary state for illegal aliens,” and would have no choice but to “conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community.”

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The source who spoke to The Chronicle said the plan calls for immigration officers to be flown in from other parts of the country to help carry out the operation. The sweep could span more than one day and will include enforcement of work sites suspected of illegally employing undocumented immigrants, the source said.

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Liberal-leaning lawmakers in the Bay Area and across California have sparred for years with federal officials over the role local agencies play in immigration enforcement.

The tension intensified after the July 2015 killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco Bay pier, when it was revealed that the undocumented immigrant shooter, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, had been released from San Francisco Jail under the city’s sanctuary ordinance, even though immigration officers had asked that he be turned over for a sixth deportation.

After Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder charges in November, Homan blamed San Francisco for Steinle’s death, saying the shooting “could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets.”

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Under the Trump administration, ICE has repeatedly warned that if the agency can’t detain people from local jails, it will be forced to arrest them in the communities that hold such policies.

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In recent years, ICE has not made a practice of conducting major immigration sweeps in cities like San Francisco and Oakland. In September, 27 people were arrested in Santa Clara County as part of an operation targeting sanctuary cities across the country that led to 500 arrests. In June, federal officers arrested 54 people in Central California.

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