U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were in Baltimore this week arresting more than two dozen undocumented immigrants.
ICE announced yesterday that its agents arrested 498 immigrants from 42 countries during “Operation Safe City,” a four-day crackdown in cities and regions that refuse to honor ICE detainers or let deportation officers into jails and prisons to weed out immigrants.
Twenty-eight of those nearly 500 individuals were in Baltimore, the feds say. The announcement made an example of one woman from El Salvador who entered the U.S. illegally and was convicted of first-degree assault, but was released from detention in Maryland before ICE could take her. The agency said she had previously been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Officials didn’t identify her or provide additional details.
Information about the 27 other recently arrested immigrants in Baltimore also wasn’t provided.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” said ICE Acting Director Tom Homan in a statement. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
ICE targeted entire states and cities that have offered “sanctuary”-like policies to immigrants by limiting their cooperation with deportation agents. A full accounting, beyond Baltimore’s 28 arrestees: 107 immigrants arrested in Philadelphia; 101 in Los Angeles; 63 in Denver; 50 in Massachusetts; 45 in New York; 33 in Portland, Ore.; 30 in Cook County, Ill.; 27 in Santa Clara County, Calif.; and 14 in D.C.
Almost two-thirds of them – 317 – had criminal convictions already in the United States. According to a table provided by ICE, the most common offense was driving under the influence (86), followed by drug trafficking (14), assault (13), domestic violence and weapons violations (11).
Mayor Catherine Pugh issued a statement Friday afternoon reaffirming the city government’s commitment to immigrant residents.
“While I cannot comment on the specifics of arrest cases in Baltimore, my Administration maintains its commitment to educating immigrant communities about their rights,” she said. “Individuals with legitimate claims to remain in the United States should not be denied access to due process because of misinformation or because they cannot afford proper representation.”
The Mayor’s Office of Multicultural and Immigrant Affairs has partnered up with the Open Society Institute to establish the SAFE City Baltimore Fund to offer immigrants greater access to legal counsel, the mayor said. “With this new tool, residents can find help and address their concerns proactively.”
Pat Shannon Jones, executive director of the Loch Raven-based Immigration Outreach Service Center, said that just last night she completed a walk-through of Highlandtown with locals and members of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) to discuss immigrant safety and law enforcement concerns.
“Everyone that we spoke with was speaking of the fear and the anxiety in the community,” she said. “They’re less and less comfortable with police presence because so many of the ICE agents wear police vests. It’s confusing and it undermines the city police relationship with the community.”
The feds have pressured Baltimore law enforcement to stop limiting local cooperation with deportation agents by holding federal crime-fighting money over their heads. Attorneys from the Trump administration’s Department of Justice wrote to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis earlier this summer asking him to allow ICE agents into detention facilities and to notify the feds when an undocumented inmate is about to get out.
Davis responded in a letter in August, writing that attaching funds to help fight violent crime in cities is “a step in the wrong direction.”
Beyond noting the administrative obstacles – the State of Maryland, not the city, has operated the Baltimore City Detention Center since 1991 – Davis said agreeing to change local policies in exchange for federal money “sends the wrong message to our immigrant communities. Without [their] trust, immigrants may be less likely to communicate with the police, report crimes, or seek assistance upon becoming a victim.”
Jones’ organization has been handing out red cards around the city reminding immigrants of their rights not to open the door for ICE agents or otherwise submit themselves to questioning.
“It’s just been a difficult time with everyone,” she said.
This story has been updated.