Hundreds of undocumented immigrants were arrested in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in cities across the U.S. this week — the first widespread enforcement of President Donald Trump’s policy aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
Trump campaigned on a promise to take action against illegal immigration, pledging to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants by targeting those with criminal records. Notably, experts have challenged Trump’s estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.
The raids took place at homes and workplaces in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, the Los Angeles area, North Carolina and South Carolina, the Washington Post reported, citing immigration officials.
Here are some key details to know:
This action follows Trump’s executive order on immigration
Trump signed an executive order last month aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. It set a priority of deporting any undocumented immigrant who had been charged with a crime, convicted of a crime or had “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”
But immigration officials said the recent raids were a “routine” enforcement practice.
“These are existing, established fugitive operations teams. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” said Gillian Christensen, acting press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, according to CNN. “ICE only conducts targeted enforcement of criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws.”
Raids caused panic in immigrant communities
Recent arrests and deportations have affected people who were not considered a priority for deportation under the Obama administration.
Protests broke out in Phoenix this week over the deportation of a mother who had lived in the U.S. for 21 years and was arrested during a routine meeting with ICE on Wednesday. She had been convicted of a felony in 2008 for using a fake social security number to gain employment, but she was not previously considered a deportation priority.
Officials conducted similar raids during Obama’s presidency but prioritized immigrants who were deemed a threat to national security or public safety. Still, more than 2 million people were deported under Obama, leading some critics to label him “Deporter in Chief.”
The raids this week caused fear and confusion in immigrant communities, and immigrants’ rights advocates argued it was different than typical law enforcement action. Some groups issued guidance for dealing with ICE officials. In Austin, Texas, teachers handed out flyers to students, explaining “what to do if ICE comes to your door,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Democratic leaders and lawmakers spoke out about the arrests
“Angelenos should not have to fear raids that are disruptive to their peace of mind and bring unnecessary anxiety to our homes, schools, and workplaces,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday. “The Administration should take a just, humane, and sensible approach that does not cause pain for people who only want to live their lives and raise their families in the communities they call home.”
Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro confirmed there was a “targeted operation” taking place in the state and said he was “concerned” about the raids.
“I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state,” he said in a statement.
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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com