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ICE Arrested More Than 150 Immigrants In A Nationwide Sweep

The operation targeted immigrants who officials say had promised to leave the US but did not.

Last updated on November 19, 2020, at 1:06 p.m. ET

Posted on November 18, 2020, at 4:24 p.m. ET

Gregory Bull / AP

ICE officers detain a man during an operation in Escondido, California, on July 8, 2019.

More than 150 immigrants across the US were arrested in recent weeks as part of an operation targeting those who officials say had promised to leave but did not, according to an internal document obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials also announced on Thursday that about 86% of those arrested during Operation Broken Promise had criminal convictions or pending charges.

The operation comes on the heels of nationwide sweeps last month that targeted areas like California that have enacted so-called sanctuary policies.

This time, ICE officials say they targeted people who had been granted voluntary departure, a policy that allows undocumented immigrants to leave the country on their own accord rather than be deported.

CNN previously reported that ICE was planning the operation, which former agency officials said raises questions about its necessity.

“It’s a waste of resources,” said John Sandweg, a former acting director of ICE under the Obama administration. “When you’re targeting on immigration status alone and not on criminal history, you’re wasting resources.”

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal officials have come under fire in recent weeks after holding news conferences in swing states such as Pennsylvania, where they announced the results of other regional operations. ICE also rolled out a controversial set of billboards in Pennsylvania that featured the faces of immigrants who had been released by so-called sanctuary jurisdictions and were wanted by authorities.

Operation Broken Promise also comes amid a growing number of coronavirus cases across the US. Detention centers holding immigrants have struggled at times to contain outbreaks of the disease, and several ICE detainees who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in government custody this year.

Gregory Bull / AP

Inmates walk down a hallway at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego in 2017. The facility was at the center of the first big coronavirus outbreak at a US immigration detention center in April 2020.

As of Monday, 400 detainees were being monitored or isolated after testing positive for COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 7,000 detainees have tested positive in agency custody.

The agency had limited at-large operations during the coronavirus pandemic, but in late September it changed language on its website to indicate that enforcement would begin again as normal.

The results of the operation on Thursday are expected to be announced by Tony Pham, the senior official performing the duties of the director.

In October, Pham led the implementation of a policy that allows officers to arrest and rapidly deport undocumented immigrants who have been in the US for less than two years.

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