US immigration agents detained 680 immigrants last week in the first round of raids during the Donald Trump presidency, the government announced on Monday, adding that the operations targeted individuals who represented “a threat to public safety”.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced the number of detainees in a press release and noted that “approximately 75 per cent were criminal aliens”, EFE news reported.

Those criminals were “convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges,” Kelly said.

“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members,” he said.

Agents also seek to detain “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” the head of the Department of Homeland Security said.

The more than 680 people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posed a “threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” Kelly said.

He added that ICE, an agency that forms part of his department, has been carrying out raids like these regularly for many years.

He added that Trump has instructed his agencies to “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.”

“These professionals put their lives on the line to protect our communities and country,” Kelly said about the ICE agents.

The Secretary did not specify how many of the detained immigrants have been deported nor whether they face trial in the United States for their crimes.

According to figures released on Monday by ICE, 235 of the detainees are in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri, and of those, 163 had previous criminal convictions.

Another 190 were detained in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, while 161 were arrested in Los Angeles and 28 more in the area of San Antonio, Texas, ICE said.

Immigrant defence groups have complained that the number of immigrants rounded up in the raids are being boosted by including undocumented arrivals who have committed no serious infractions.

First Published | 14 February 2017 7:24 AM
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