For years, border patrol (search) agents in Southern California have done just that — patrol the U.S. border with Mexico and highway checkpoints, arresting illegal immigrants only near the border.

But now those agents are extending their reach inland, conducting sweeps in cities and arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants in states like California, Arizona and Texas.

The crackdown is causing panic in some heavily Latino (search) areas. The Catholic Church has even weighed in, with one cardinal issuing a statement saying the "recent interior activity has generated fear, confusion and anger throughout Hispanic neighborhoods" and calling for the sweeps to end.

Latino groups are calling the activity racial profiling, comparing it to Iraq. But the U.S. Border Patrol says it's not conducting random raids or rounding up Latinos at random, nor is it targeting schools, churches or homes.

The agency also points out that crossing the border illegally is a crime. Department of Homeland Security (search) officials say the sweeps send the message that you're not free and clear just because you cross the border into the United States.

Go to the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by Fox News' Trace Gallagher.