Atlanta-area immigration attorneys and advocates say federal immigration officials have recently increased the number of immigration arrests.
Sarah Owings, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Georgia Alabama Chapter, said arrests occurred along Buford Highway Thursday and Friday. She said arrests have been reported in other parts of the state as well, including Savannah and Cordele.
“It’s really all over the state,” Owings said. “It’s amazing how quickly it’s happening.”
Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), did not confirm any specific operations but said operations are routine.
“Every day, as part of routine targeted enforcement operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations teams arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws,” Cox said in a statement.
“ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” he said.
Brookhaven Police confirmed ICE arrests have occurred recently.
“Over the last week or so, there have been enforcement activities from Immigration and Customs enforcement in and around our city,” said Brookhaven Police Major Brandon Gurley. He said the department was not asked by ICE to assist with any of the operations, which he said sometimes happens with certain “high-risk” operations.
Cox said about 200 people were arrested this week across Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, adding that the number of arrests were roughly split between the states. He said most of the 200 people were convicted criminals.
The reports of arrests come after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25, outlining priorities for immigration enforcement.
The executive order signed by Trump broadens the priorities for ICE in who should be deported, Owings said. The priorities include people who “have been convicted of any criminal offense,” but also people who have been charged with “any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved.”
“It really vastly expands ICE’s powers to prioritize who they want to pick up by eliminating the priorities that we had under Obama,” Owings said.
Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for immigration arrests included people who were convicted of felonies, serious misdemeanors and people who entered the country illegally after 2014.
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said her office has been getting an increased number of calls over the past several days. She said she did not know how many people have been arrested but said there have been reports from Savannah, Moultrie, Cordele, Grovetown and Brookhaven.
“This is a great concern for us because the executive action is so vague,” she said.
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