While President Barack Obama’s executive expansion of protections for undocumented immigrants is on hold, the U.S. government is still going after people that the president’s orders were never intended to protect: fugitives and gang members. On Monday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) said it arrested more than 2,000 people in a five-day nationwide sweep aimed at those with criminal backgrounds. The agency said the operation that it dubbed “Cross Check” had targeted “the worst of the worst criminals,” CNN reported.
Of the 2,059 arrested in the sweep, nearly half of them have convictions for serious crimes. Officials said 400 have previous aggravated felony convictions, 58 are known gang members and 89 are convicted sex offenders. Nearly 500 of the arrestees had re-entered the U.S. after having previously been deported by authorities.
The arrestees come from 94 countries. They include a Polish citizen, convicted for possession of cocaine in Hartford, Connecticut; a Jamaican man, convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer in Atlanta; and a Finnish citizen, convicted of having child pornography in Illinois. An ICE official said the people arrested “meet our highest priorities to ensure public safety and national security," according to the CNN report.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, last November, laid out the agency’s enforcement priorities, specifying that those who are considered threats to national security, street gang members, repeat misdemeanor offenders and drunk drivers would be targeted in ICE raids. Drunk drivers accounted for 912 of the arrests, according to the CNN report. “Cross Check” was the fifth major sweep by DHS since 2011. The efforts have resulted in 13,214 arrests.
Obama’s executive actions on immigration announced last year were put on hold last month by a federal judge in Texas. Half of U.S. states sued the Obama administration to stop the expansion of programs that defer deportation actions against undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The expansion would also cover the parents of children born in the U.S.