NEW YORK — Forty-one foreign nationals were arrested during the past week during U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the New York City area — and 38 of them were criminals.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement initially confirmed the five-day raids Friday, saying they were a set of targeted enforcement actions much like those they had conducted periodically under the previous administration.
But immigration advocates and Democratic politicians who represented the areas affected had questioned the activities, saying they were going beyond the Obama administration's initiatives in targeting nonthreatening individuals and scaring communities with public arrests.
In a statement Monday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly once again emphasized that the operations were "routine."
He said the operations targeted convicted criminals, gang members, individuals who re-entered the country after being deported and individuals who had final removal orders from immigration judges.
Those arrested in New York included a citizen of El Salvador with a criminal conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and self-admitted MS-13 gang member; a citizen of Jamaica with a criminal conviction for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11; a citizen of Mexico with a conviction for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11.
More than 680 people were arrested in the raids across the country, officials say. Of those arrested, 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.
Individuals with criminal convictions who were arrested during the ICE raids referenced in the memo will face prosecution, according to the memo. Those who are not criminally prosecuted will be processed for removal from the U.S., and individuals who have outstanding orders of deportation or who returned illegally after being deported are subject to immediate removal from the U.S., the memo says.
Remaining individuals who have been arrested are awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for the near future, the memo says.
The memo also says rumors about ICE checkpoints and sweeps are "false, dangerous and irresponsible." Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps circulated in social media posts warning residents to avoid certain areas, but those warnings could not be confirmed. The memo says anyone who is making these posts is "falsely reporting" ICE checkpoints or raids and by doing so, is "doing a disservice to those they claim to support."
"President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation and directed our Department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally," Kelly said.
While the Obama administration did conduct similar enforcement, advocates have raised anecdotal concerns that last week's actions went after a much wider group of immigrants than the Obama administration had prioritized.
While the previous administration had clear guidance that targeted mainly serious and violent criminals, in his first week President Donald Trump signed an executive order that vastly expanded the priorities to include virtually any undocumented immigrant in the US, including if they were only suspected of a crime or safety threat.
The New York Immigration Coalition released a statement Sunday condemning the reported ICE operations in NYC as claimed by the memo:
"We are horrified and angered by the ICE raids and activity in the greater New York area that has led to the arrest and detainment of 40 people. Shame on ICE for putting New York’s immigrant communities - four million strong - in a state of panic. These arrests do nothing but tear families apart, hobble our economies, and corrode the bonds of trust that tie our communities together - all under the false pretense of “public safety.”
“These are dark times for immigrants in our New York, and in America. On behalf of our 175 member agencies across the state, the New York Immigration Coalition demands a complete halt to these irresponsible enforcement operations that are having a chilling effect among New York’s diverse communities.
“The NYIC is committed to ensuring that our communities have the most accurate information possible to best protect themselves. We urge everyone to educate themselves as to their rights when interrogated by ICE and to consult with a lawyer if they have any questions. Those with prior deportation orders or prior criminal histories are particularly vulnerable, and should get educated as soon as possible.
“We will not stand down. Our New York is inclusive, our allies are large in number, and we will respond by using everything in our power to fight back against deportations, walls, and bans. We call on our allies, our elected officials and our partners to stand with us against these raids and arrests targeting our communities.”
Five Staten Island residents from Mexico were arrested during this period of ICE raids. A source told PIX11 the raids began on Feb. 3 and ended Wednesday.
Four of these residents were arrested at their homes while another was arrested at a Staten Island courthouse, according to the source.
Four of the residents have children who are U.S. citizens, according to the source. It's still unclear whether any of the individuals who were taken into custody had criminal records.
New York City is a sanctuary city, a term that generally refers to communities that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials. There are at least 39 other U.S. cities that are sanctuary cities.
CNN contributed to this report.