ICE planning immigration enforcement operations in sanctuary cities

The operation will target at least three jurisdictions.

The Trump administration is preparing a series of immigration enforcement operations targeting illegal immigrants in at least three sanctuary jurisdictions, a source familiar with the operations told Fox News Tuesday.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations will be in California, Denver and Philadelphia, and could potentially include other cities and jurisdictions across the country.

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The Washington Post first reported about the operations, which could take place as soon as this week in California. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf may travel to at least one of the areas, it said.

“We do not comment on any law enforcement sensitive issues that may adversely impact our officers and the public,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement. “However, every day as part of routine operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targets and arrests criminal aliens and other individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws.”

Sanctuary cities limit or forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials, and specifically ICE detainers. The detainers are requests that ICE be alerted when an illegal immigrant is being released, and sometimes held until they can be detained by ICE and face deportation proceedings.

Supporters of such policies argue that they keep the community safe by encouraging cooperation between illegal immigrants and police. However, opponents argue that it results in the release of criminal illegal immigrants, and point to examples of illegal immigrants committing crimes.

The ICE spokesperson said that in such jurisdictions, “ICE is forced to arrest at-large criminal aliens out in the communities instead of under the safe confines of a jail.”

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President Trump made immigration enforcement a key part of his 2016 campaign, and has cracked down on illegal immigration both at the border and in the U.S.

While the timing of the operations will raise suspicions that it is motivated by presidential politics -- just weeks from an election -- the administration has consistently taken measures to pressure sanctuary cities -- including enforcement operations.

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Earlier this month, ICE announced that it arrested more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from 20 countries in a series of operations in July and August -- with the vast majority of those arrested having criminal charges or convictions.

About 85 percent of the immigrants caught in the operations, which lasted from July 13 through Aug. 20, had pending or criminal convictions -- for manslaughter, assault, domestic violence, extortion, robbery, sexual offenses with a minor and other crimes, the agency said.