While immigration advocates say more than 100 people were detained Thursday as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials conducted home raids across three Southern California counties, the federal agency insists its operations were "routine" and not part of President Donald Trump's unprecedented immigration crackdown.
ICE officials have yet to release detailed information on how many people the agency arrested Thursday and where they were taken into custody, only stating that the activities were "targeted and lead driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities," according to ICE spokesperson Lori Haley.
"Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions," she said in an email. "To that end, ICE’s routine immigration enforcement actions are ongoing."
However, according to Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communication director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A., those detained were either people with deportation orders but no criminal background or family members of those sought who were home during the raids and told officials they lacked documentation.
The organization's attorneys confirmed there is a list of more than 100 people being detained at the ICE processing center in downtown Los Angeles after immigration raids were carried out at homes in Santa Paula, Oxnard, Van Nuys, Downey and San Bernardino, Cabrera said.
Advocates say one man was detained while working at a Target in the San Fernando Valley, while an L.A. police official said the department was not aware of ICE raids taking place Thursday in that area, according to the Los Angeles Times. Roughly 60 of those taken in were Mexican nationals, the newspaper reported.
An ICE official who spoke with KTLA on condition of anonymity said the activists’ reports were “grossly exaggerated.”
Immigration advocates and supporters gathered near the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown L.A. to peacefully protest ICE's reported actions. Demonstrators closed Aliso Street to through traffic near the Alvarado Street intersection for about two hours, chanting "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here."
"For us, it is not an ordinary day," said CHIRLA Director of Policy Joseph Villa, who attended the rally. "We have hundreds of calls to our offices as well from attorneys indicating that their clients have been picked up.
"ICE is not releasing their names. ICE is not allowing them to see their attorney," he added.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León issued a statement Thursday saying he "asked federal officials to disclose how many children, men, and women they have detained; what the processing time will be; what the rationale is for their detention; and I asked that everyone be offered access to an attorney."
Ameena Quazi, who works with the National Lawyers Guild L.A., said it was almost certain that there were more people who had been detained that activists groups had not been in touch with.
"We do know it was very widespread, from the (San Fernando) Valley to the San Bernardino area," she said. "We do also know that people have been pulled from their homes."
U.S. Representative Tony Cárdenas, whose jurisdiction covers parts of the San Fernando Valley including Van Nuys, called the ICE activities "outrageous" and similarly demanded more information.
"This is just one more action by this administration that hurts our communities and our economy," he wrote in a statement. "I will not sit quietly by while they seek to harm the people of my district."
Whittier resident Jessica Valenzuela, who attended Thursday's protest, said it was worrisome that "oftentimes folks’ liberties and their rights are violated during ICE raids, where they’re picked up without having adequate access to counsel, and that’s one of the biggest concerns."
There are an estimated 1 million immigrations without proper documentation living in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
The last time more than 100 people were detained in ICE raids in Southern California was last July, according to a report from the L.A. Times. All 112 immigrants arrested had criminal convictions and the sweep took four days across L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the newspaper said.
"It means that now what President Trump said — that he wants to deport 11 million — it is true," CHIRLA's Villa told KTLA. "He wants to deport immigrant families, he wants to deport people with no convictions at all."
In January of last year, the federal government conducted raids to find and deport Central American families who came to the U.S. fleeing violence in their own countries and stayed illegally, as CNN reported. A total of 121 people were taken into custody, mainly in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
Last February, in response to anxieties raised by those deportations, the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted unanimously in favor of a measure banning ICE agents from coming onto school property without permission.
On Wednesday, a Phoenix resident and married mother of two who came to the U.S. when she was 14 was detained during a routine check-in with her local ICE office and deported to Mexico after an hourslong standoff with protestors. While many see Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos as the first casualty of President Trump's crackdown on immigrants without proper documentation, federal officials say her case had followed the legal system process.