33 arrested in Seattle in immigration sweep focused on “sanctuary” cities

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arresting suspects during a 2010 raid. More people have been deported under Obama than any previous president. (Photo from ICE)
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arresting suspects during a 2010 raid. (File photo by ICE.)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested 498 people nationwide, including 33 in Seattle, in an effort that concentrated on places that have denied federal immigration agents access to local jails and prisons.

An ICE spokeperson told the Boston Globe that this week’s Operation “Safe City” focused on areas that have “self-proclaimed they are not going to cooperate with ICE.”

Arrests took place in Seattle, Baltimore, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Santa Clara County in California, the state of Massachusetts and Washington D.C.

ICE characterizes the jurisdictions as not cooperating with the federal government’s deportation policies.

The places targeted this week have policies that ICE claims impedes its work, including barring federal officials access to search local jails and prisons for undocumented immigrants and declining requests to hold people who are scheduled for release so federal officials can take them into custody for deportation, which are called ICE detainers.

The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year said King and Snohomish counties had declined ICE detainers. Snohomish County told the Seattle Times earlier this year its policy was based on federal court rulings declaring the detainers unconstitutional.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” said ICE Acting Director Tom Homan in a prepared statement. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”

Policies that avoid differentiating people by immigration status — and thus, less easy for federal immigration agents to track — are often called “sanctuary” policies. The cities of SeattleBurien and Olympia also have policies that bar city staff from asking for or identifying residents by immigration status.

This has caused clashes with federal immigration officials and President Donald Trump’s administration, which has threatened to withhold funding from places with those policies.

According to the ICE press release, the arrests prioritized people with criminal convictions or pending charges, and those who had previously been deported. The press release noted that those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were not targeted for arrest.