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ICE Targeting 'Sanctuary Jurisdictions' In Latest Raids


Immigration and Customs Enforcement swept up nearly 500 immigrants in Operation Safe City this week. ICE conducted raids across the country, targeting what they call sanctuary jurisdictions where ICE says they are denied access to people suspected of violating immigration laws. Most of the arrests occurred in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Denver and all across the state of Massachusetts. Jeremy C. Fox has been reporting about this in The Boston Globe, and he joins us now. Welcome.

JEREMY C FOX: Thank you.

CHANG: So how many people were detained in Massachusetts? What do we know about them?

FOX: In Massachusetts, it was a total of 50. We know that 30 of those had criminal charges or criminal convictions, and the other 20 did not. We don't know very much about who those other 20 are. And in fact we don't know a whole lot about who the 30 that have either convictions or pending charges are.

CHANG: Do you know what kind of convictions? What types of crimes are we talking about?

FOX: So we got a breakdown from ICE for the nationwide numbers but not a breakdown for Massachusetts numbers.


FOX: When I tried to get more specific information for our readership, they were not very forthcoming. But the charges across the board of the approximately 300-some-odd people nationwide who had criminal records, they were all over the place. I mean there were a lot of drug charges. There were some domestic violence and child abuse charges, forgery. Just almost every crime that you can think of was included in this pretty long list.

CHANG: So 300 nationwide in these raids - 300 out of the 500 had criminal convictions. So we're talking about three-fifths.

FOX: Well, it's a little bit more than 300. I think that's about 317 that have either convictions or pending charges. It was not entirely clear to me exactly how many had already been convicted. And I think that's important to note because, you know, we have a presumption of innocence in this country. So some of those may have been charged with crimes that they actually did not commit and for which they will be exonerated eventually. The largest number, though...

CHANG: Yeah.

FOX: ...Eighty-seven of those had a drunk driving conviction.

CHANG: Right. And what makes this sweep different from others in the past, say, under the Obama administration?

FOX: Well, when I spoke with an ICE spokesman last night, he said that definitely sweeps like this did happen under the Obama administration and prior to that. It's not that unusual for them to do a large roundup of undocumented immigrants. But what was distinctive here is that they were targeting what they called sanctuary communities. They went after a lot of cities that had said that they would not use their law enforcement to cooperate with ICE in apprehending undocumented immigrants who were not criminals.

And in Massachusetts, we have a number of communities that have said that. We also have had our State Supreme Judicial Court rule in January that in fact municipalities in this state are not required and don't actually have the authority to hold people on federal immigration violations.

CHANG: Does living in a sanctuary city make people in that city without documents more so targets of ICE? I mean do sanctuary cities actually provide the sanctuary that their name suggests?

FOX: Well, I think the message that Operation Safe City sends is that, no, being in a community that has designated itself as a sanctuary city does not protect anyone necessarily. The mayor of Boston says, you can come and stay in City Hall. But you know, if you get home from your work in a restaurant or at Logan Airport where a lot of immigrants, including some undocumented immigrants, work and ICE is waiting for you on your front door, you know, the game is up. You don't have the opportunity to go and seek sanctuary in City Hall or in a church or in any of the other places that might be willing to try to shelter you.

CHANG: Jeremy C. Fox is a correspondent at The Boston Globe. Thank you very much for speaking with us.

FOX: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.