LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Federal immigration officials say 160 people were arrested across the Southland over the past week during a crackdown targeting "criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives."
The arrests took place in six counties during what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials described as a "five-day targeted enforcement operation" that began Monday and wrapped up around noon Friday.
Of the 160 arrested, about 150 had criminal histories, while five more had either been previously deported or had "final orders of removal". Many of those arrested had prior felony convictions for "serious or violent offenses" including child sex crimes and assault.
The arrestees - which were 95 percent male - included nationals from a dozen countries, according to ICE.
Immigration advocates said they fielded calls Thursday from immigrants and lawyers reporting raids at homes and businesses in the greater Los Angeles area, including Van Nuys, Downey, Oxnard, San Bernardino, and other cities.
Lawyer Karla Navarrete said Friday agents looking for one man arrested another who is in the country illegally but has no criminal record.
Navarrete says she sought to stop the man's deportation and was told by ICE that things had changed. She says another lawyer filed federal court papers to halt it.
Multiple reports on social media suggested similar raids were conducted in Atlanta, Austin, and other U.S. cities, but there was no immediate confirmation from federal officials.
A report released Thursday showed nearly one in five immigrants in the U.S. illegally live in either the Los Angeles or New York City metropolitan areas.
The report released by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center estimates more than 2 million immigrants in the country illegally lived in the two areas in 2014.
KCAL9's Tom Wait reported on the immigration crackdown Thursday and Friday evenings.
On Thursday, ICE officials denied to Wait the operation was underway. They said Friday the operation had been in the planning stages for several weeks.
They also blasted reports that the arrests were random.
"The rash of these recent reports about ICE checkpoints and random sweeps, it's all false and that's definitely dangerous and irresponsible," said ICE spokesperson David Marin.
In one instance, ICE was allegedly looking for a woman's ex-boyfriend but they ended up arresting the current boyfriend.
California State Senate President Kevin DeLeon says that Manuel Mosqueda's 's arrest is troubling.
"I think it's incredibly unfortunate that there's so much panic and that there's so much panic and that there's so much fear in communities across Southern California," he said.
Mosqueda's daughter says her father was to be married in four days, on Valentine's Day.
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