Immigration officials announce 41 arrests in NYC amid criticism

Federal immigration officials defended a wave of arrests in New York City Monday as questions continued to swirl about just who was being targeted.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that 41 foreign nationals had been arrested in the past week — 38 of whom had previous convictions. 

But the nature of those convictions was not immediately clear. ICE only released information on three of those arrested: 

— A citizen of El Salvador with a criminal conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and self-admitted MS-13 gang member. 

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— A citizen of Jamaica with a criminal conviction for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11.

— A citizen of Mexico with a criminal convicted for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11.

An agency spokeswoman did not respond to a request for information on the remaining people arrested. Immigrant advocates said the executive order President Trump signed last month allowed ICE agents to broaden their dragnet to include all undocumented immigrants. Under President Barack Obama, immigration officials focused on undocumented violent criminals. 

Sen. Charles Schumer said the wave of arrests of undocumented people across the country — had been accompanied by a disturbing lack of transparency. 

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"Targeting law-abiding innocent immigrant families whose only wrongdoing was crossing the border to give their children a better life, instead of focusing on removing those who have been convicted of violent crimes, is a waste of limited resources and undermines law enforcement in communities across the country. ICE must come clean,” Schumer said.

The agency said that it had made over 680 arrests in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and the New York City area in the past week. 

The head of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, said the crackdown was consistent with “routine, targeted arrests” carried out by ICE on a daily basis.

A spokeswoman did not respond to a request for data on ICE arrests in the weeks preceding the operation.

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Meanwhile, Legal Aid attorneys said they had received around 50 calls Sunday to a new hotline established for immigrants frightened by the sweep. 

Attorney Neferttiti Ankra said she didn't have longer than a five-minute break between calls for around 12 hours. 

One caller was trying to figure out if a sibling detained by ICE had already been deported. 

Around 20 others sought advice about how to resolve outstanding immigration issues, such as expired Visas, Ankra said. They were referred to attorneys for further advice. 

"Our communities are terrified," said Adriene Holder, the attorney-in-charge of civil practice at Legal Aid. "There's a lot of fear. A lot of confusion. They're not sure what to do or who to contact. They didn't know if their loved one had been deported already or if they were in a facility." 

Many callers to the hotline — 844-955-3425 — were English-speakers from the Caribbean, Ankra said. 

Other callers asked for advice about their rights should they be confronted by ICE. 

All said they sensed a shift in immigration policy under President Trump, according to Ankra.

"Now it's completely inhumane. It seems to be extremely arbitrary," Holder said. 

Legal Aid declined to share specifics about any cases. 

On Sunday, the Daily News reported that churches and restaurants catering to immigrant New Yorkers were notably empty amid growing fear about a surge in immigration raids. 

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