Just over 160 people were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers over a five-day “surge” focused on counties in Southern California, including Ventura County and Santa Barbara County. Virtually every individual arrested had a record of prior criminal convictions, ranging from misdemeanors such as prostitution to extremely serious felonies such as sex crimes involving minors. A Ventura criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth examine the consequences of the surge in closer detail.
Confusion Over Scope of ICE Raids in Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties
On Thursday, February 9, a crowd of approximately 150 protesters gathered in Los Angeles after unconfirmed reports were released that ICE operations resulted in the arrests of over 100 people in 55 different cities across Southern California.
Continuing into Friday, February 10, ICE issued a series of statements that 161 individuals had been arrested during an “enforcement surge” conducted across six Southern California counties over a five-day period.
“While this week’s operation was an enforcement surge,” the agency stated, “the focus was no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis.” The agency did, however, deny claims that ICE checkpoints were established in the affected counties.
On Saturday, Feburary 11, the Ventura County Star published an account of its own investigation into the “surge” and related ICE activity in Ventura County. At the time, Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney and Santa Paula Police Chief Steve McLean were both unable to confirm the reports, though McLean stated in one email message, “I cannot find one person in Santa Paula who saw ICE in our community.” Both men further noted that ICE agents typically inform local law enforcement when immigration officers are active in their communities.
Immigration Officers Make 161 Arrests in CA, Many with Prior Convictions
While some confusion lingers over where, when, and to what extent ICE operations occurred, ICE has reported that, among the 161 foreign nationals arrested in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and other Southern California counties, all but 10 had prior criminal convictions, including convictions related to:
- Assault – 23 convictions
- Burglary – 6
- Counterfeiting – 1
- Domestic Violence – 42
- Drug Crimes – 26
- DUI – 17
- Grand Theft Auto – 4
- Identity Theft – 2
- Prostitution – 1
- Robbery – 1
- Sex Crimes – 17
- Weapons Crimes – 5
With regard to sex crimes, a DHS press release specified offenses including aggravated sexual abuse, indecent liberties with a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and sexual assault of a minor.
While about 75% of the individuals arrested in California (121 out of 161) originated from Mexico, people of other nationalities were also arrested during the surge, including 16 individuals from El Salvador, 11 individuals from Guatemala, two individuals from China, two individuals from Jamaica, two individuals from Nicaragua, one individual from Australia, one individual from Belize, one individual from Brazil, one individual from Honduras, one individual from Israel, one individual from the Philippines, and one individual from South Korea.
Arrests Reported in Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Maria, Camarillo
More arrests were made in some communities than others. Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties represented the smallest numbers of arrests – five and six respectively – accounting for less than 7% of the 161 total arrests in California. Figures were significantly higher in more populous Los Angeles County, where 95 arrests were recorded – 28 of them within the City of Los Angeles. Ventura and Santa Barbara cities where arrests occurred included:
- Camarillo – 1 arrest
- Oxnard – 3
- Santa Maria – 4
- Ventura – 2
Nationwide, a total of 680 individuals were arrested, meaning California accounts nationally for roughly 24% of the arrests while Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties account nationally for less than 2% of the arrests.
On Monday, February 13, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly stated the following in a press release:
“President Trump has… directed our Department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally.”
The press release also stated that “ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years.” You can read the full press release on the DHS’ official website.
Call a Ventura Criminal Defense Attorney Handling Felonies and Misdemeanors
The Ventura criminal attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC have over 22 years of experience representing clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, including Oxnard, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and other local communities. For a free and confidential legal consultation, contact our law offices at (805) 643-5555 right away.