US deportation raids spark protests, demonstrations
WASHINGTON: US authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented migrants last week in the first large-scale raids under President Donald Trump, triggering panic in immigrant communities nationwide.
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency rounded up undocumented individuals in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Austin and Atlanta, among other cities, two weeks after Mr Trump signed an executive order that broadened which undocumented immigrants would be targeted for deportation.
According to ICE, however, the operations were "routine".
"The focus of these operations is no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis," said an agency spokesman.
Mr David Marin, head of ICE's removal operations in LA, told reporters that approximately 160 people had been arrested in the California metropolis.
About 75 per cent of them had prior convictions, he said, adding that some had been nabbed solely because they were undocumented.
By Friday night, 37 undocumented immigrants had already been expelled to Mexico.
In a Jan 25 decree, Trump prioritised the deportation of undocumented men who had been convicted of or "charged with any criminal offence," including misdemeanours.
Mr Marin said the operations had been planned before Mr Trump's swearing-in and were comparable to past actions.
He rebuffed reports about ICE checkpoints and random sweeps, calling them "dangerous and irresponsible".
The raids, which hit residential areas and workplaces, sparked protests and provoked the ire of elected Democratic representatives, notably in California and particularly in Los Angeles, where the Pew Research Centre estimates around a million undocumented migrants reside.
"President Trump's policy change betrays our values," Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.
"Tearing families apart isn't what this country stands for."
In Austin, Texas, where some 100,000 unauthorised migrants live, a bystander captured video footage of an arrest, which made local front-page news and ignited demonstrations. - AFP