Immigration authorities targeted suspected illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds during an enforcement operation that spanned several states last week, but an advocate says such efforts stir fear in legal immigrants, including those who have become U.S. citizens.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested 78 people, 25 of them in Nebraska.
Of the 78, 62 already had criminal convictions.
The other states where arrests took place were Iowa, 25; Minnesota, 15; South Dakota, 10; and North Dakota, 3.
The arrests were part of a six-day operation.
Those with prior convictions included a 49-year-old Honduran man in Omaha with numerous prior convictions, including eight for driving under the influence.
Those arrested are from Mexico, El Salvador, South Sudan and other countries. They will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.
“This operation targeted criminal aliens, public safety threats and individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws,” said Peter Berg, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations for the region. “We will continue to devote the full efforts of our agency to protecting citizens and enforcing federal immigration law.”
This is the most recent publicized immigration operation in the Omaha area. Agents arrested 27 men on April 29 at various locations in the metro area.
The ICE release said that during such operations, officers often encounter people who are in the U.S. illegally and that each was evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
But Sergio Sosa, executive director of the Heartland Workers Center in Omaha, said such raids stir up fear, even among immigrants in the U.S. legally, including those who have become citizens.
In some cases, he said, they don’t go to work or take other precautions because they are afraid.
“They feel that fear, that exercising the right to vote, might (draw attention to) a relative or a friend that might not have the proper documentation,” he said.