The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said Tuesday that 35 arrests were made in a highly publicized enforcement operation that targeted 2,100 people in Baltimore and nine other cities.
Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence told reporters the operation, nicknamed “Border Resolve,” is ongoing. He declined to identify where the arrests have been made so far.
“I didn’t hear of any [arrests] around here,” said Howard County immigration attorney Becca Niburg, who had joined other advocates in trying to ensure the rights of potential targets after Republican President Donald Trump’s tweet in June that the United States will deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants.
At one point, Trump said ICE’s action would begin July 14.
His remarks prompted activists to circulate information about hotlines for immigrants to call, and to step up training about immigrants’ rights. Advocates said some undocumented immigrants and family members stopped showing up at work or in public places.
Of 2,100 targets, who are people with final deportation orders, Albence said 18 of those arrested were members of families that entered the country together. The other 17 were "collaterals” found in the course of the operation.
Albence said ICE officers faced a number of obstacles.
“There were a couple things that were going on at this time. There was a tropical depression that was coming through in New Orleans,” one of the cities on the list, Albence said.
He also said some officers were pulled off the operation to protect their safety. He did not go into detail about why, but suggested the action was particularly challenging because it lacked an element of surprise. Trump had tweeted about it, and it was the subject of widespread media coverage.
“It’s been all over the news,” Albence said.
Border Resolve targeted those who — because of backlogs — might have waited years to present their arguments for asylum. Their cases were placed at the top of the list for consideration, but they were either unsuccessful or skipped their hearings.
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Albence said a second, separate operation, called “Cross Check” lasted two months and ended July 11. It yielded 899 arrests. Albence said Cross Check targeted people with removal orders within the past five years “that also had criminal histories and criminal convictions.” He said the operation was effective.
“I think anytime you take 899 people off the street — the vast majority of which are convicted criminals, many of whom pose public safety threats — absolutely it’s a success,” he said.
The Trump administration says removing undocumented immigrants deters others from seeking to enter the country without going through the proper channels.
But Niburg, the immigration attorney, said Trump was “trying to get his base riled up.” Niburg, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security supervisor who oversaw immigration officers, said the president’s other objective was “to sow fear" in immigrant communities.
“The fear still exists,” she said.
On July 2, Democratic Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison declared their support for the city’s immigrant population and introduced a police department policy prohibiting officers from aiding federal immigration officials in civil investigations.
“We are not going to be cooperating with ICE on any level,” Young said at the time.