A two-week sweep across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware had 248 foreign nationals arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an operation aimed at "criminal aliens," immigration fugitives, and repeat border crossers, the Philadelphia ICE field office announced Monday.
While many of the suspects were targeted for arrest in the Feb. 27-March 10 action, one person who was encountered unexpectedly, a 34-year-old Guatemalan man, "had been deported … on two prior occasions and had a conviction for sexual abuse of a minor," acting field office director Jennifer Ritchey said in a statement. He was being held without bail in the York County Prison.
Ritchey highlighted the ongoing strain between ICE and Philadelphia, a so-called sanctuary city, which limits its cooperation with federal immigration agents. She said ICE had issued detainers — requests to hold prisoners beyond their normal release times — for several of the people arrested but that Philadelphia "released the individuals from custody" instead of honoring the requests. She said that created "a situation that puts the public at unnecessary risk."
Late Monday night, Mayor Kenney issued a response to Ritchey's statement.
"Like ICE, we want to keep Philadelphians safe but we can't do that if we are asked to violate the Constitution and if we are asked to destroy the trust our officers have built with communities," Kenney said. "ICE continues to ask us to hold people without probable cause or without a warrant. Philadelphia and our justice partners pursue, aggressively prosecute and punish those that commit dangerous crimes and we'll continue to do that. But we expect ICE to uphold our Constitution and respect Philadelphia for doing the same."
Of the 248 people, 88 have convictions on unspecified criminal charges; 32 have pending criminal charges; an additional 50 were previously deported and reentered illegally; and 18 are fugitives with outstanding final orders of removal issued by an immigration judge, according to ICE.
Six cases, involving allegations of illegal reentry and document fraud, are being prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.
Also arrested in the Philadelphia area:
A 52-year-old Lithuanian man, with three convictions for driving under the influence, who had an ICE detainer request. He was arrested for a fourth DUI on Feb. 23, 2017, booked and released to appear in court at a future date. But he was arrested by ICE on an unspecified date and has been held without bond at York County Prison facing deportation.
A 22-year-old man from the Gambia who was arrested by Philadelphia police and charged with aggravated assault for allegedly attempting to force his girlfriend into a hot oven during a domestic dispute. While those charges are pending, he is in custody in York, facing deportation.
Of those people apprehended, 197 were in Pennsylvania, 42 in West Virginia, eight in Delaware, and one in New Jersey, ICE said. The agency, however, did not provide a comprehensive breakdown of the underlying criminal charges and convictions.
ICE officials said the arrests were part of "routine daily operations" and not a ramp-up in response to President Trump's call for a crackdown on illegal immigration and new guidelines for ICE operations issued last month by the Department of Homeland Security.