Updated 6:05 p.m. Thursday
Federal immigration agents have arrested 232 people in Northern California over the past four days, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thursday evening, which announced the operation has ended.
Legal advocates for immigrants say they have confirmed arrests in the Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, San Francisco and Santa Clara. There have also been arrests reported in Fresno, Merced, Monterey and Sacramento counties. ICE reported one arrest in San Joaquin County. All the counties fall under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco field office for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco and Oakland shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety," ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said in a written statement Tuesday. "Thanks to the dedicated and professional work of ICE deportation officers, we were able to remove many public safety threats from the streets of the Bay Area during the past few days."
Advocates who work to rapidly respond to immigration arrests and connect detainees with attorneys had counted dozens of arrests as of late Tuesday and expected the actual number of those detained would be in the hundreds.
“We’ve often seen that actual confirmed reports that come through the local rapid-response networks and the hotlines are usually just a small percentage of how many people are actually being picked up,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, with the Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network.
The arrests came after a Saturday evening warning from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf that a sweeping immigration enforcement operation in Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area was imminent. The mayor cited "multiple credible sources," and said Sunday that she did not learn of the planned operation through official channels. Schaaf was the target of threatening phone calls and social media posts following her announcement.
Schaaf has drawn significant backlash from the Trump administration.
"The Oakland mayor’s decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased that risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens," Homan said on Tuesday, adding that he believes Schaaf's statement was reckless and politically motivated. "864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community, and I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision."
Schaaf reiterated throughout the week that she does not regret the warning.
"It was my intention that one mother, or one father, would use the information to help keep their family together," Schaaf said in a written statement. "It is Oakland’s legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together."
ICE highlighted arrests of those with prior criminal convictions, including those of alleged gang members who had previously been deported and had also been convicted of violent crimes. ICE also noted the arrest of one man convicted for lewd acts with a child under 14 years old.
The agency said on Thursday that 180 of those arrested "were either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal and failed to depart the United States, or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally."
ICE said 115, less than half, had prior serious felony convictions or past convictions "for significant or multiple misdemeanors."
The ACLU of Northern California accused ICE agents of intimidation, racial profiling and "terrorizing communities of color" during the operation in a statement Tuesday evening.
"Reports of abusive tactics by ICE are nothing new, they are part of a pattern of fear-mongering and retaliation," ACLU of Northern California attorney Angelica Salceda said. "We need strong families, not families torn apart by deportation. We need communities that trust each other, not communities living in fear of police every second of the day."
Without legal representation, some detainees may agree to leave the U.S. voluntarily and waive their right to make a case for asylum or other deportation relief before an immigration judge. Yazdan Panah said that has already happened with one of the people arrested.
“People are often under tremendous psychological stress in those circumstances," he said. "They’re often in shock, just given how they were apprehended.”
“ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately," regional ICE spokesman James Schwab said in a written statement this week. "The agency prioritizes public and national security threats, immigration fugitives and illegal reentrants. ”
Schwab wrote that anyone who violates immigration laws may be subject to arrest, detention and deportation.
The Trump administration altered an Obama-era policy that prioritized the arrest and deportation of people convicted of serious or violent crimes.
Blanca Vazquez, with the Bay Area-based Immigrant Liberation Movement, said the Trump administration’s stepped-up enforcement has galvanized immigrant communities to learn their rights and scrutinize ICE’s actions.
And that gives her hope.
“The community is going to be there," Vasquez said. "It’s not going to happen in the shadows anymore.”