Federal immigration agents arrested 84 people in a Northwest sweep this past weekend. Most were in Washington state, and most had criminal convictions.
The three-day operation ended Monday and covered parts of Alaska, Oregon and Washington.
A statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says the operation targeted criminals who are in the country illegally and “pose a public safety threat.”
“If these people are dangerous, get them out of the country," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. "I have no issue with that whatsoever.”
Urquhart said he's okay with immigration enforcement that focuses on serious criminals, but he sees this recent ICE operation as a stretch beyond.
According to information from ICE, 24 of the people arrested have no criminal record. As for the other 60 who do have records, Urquhart said about a third are for misdemeanor convictions, according to his review of the arrest listing. Those misdemeanors include a traffic offense and a marijuana possession.
Others arrested have been convicted of more serious crimes, including assault and DUI.
“This operation highlights our commitment to promoting public safety through the pursuit of targeted criminals residing in the U.S. illegally,” said Bryan Wilcox, acting field office director for ICE-Seattle.
Urquhart called it exceedingly dishonest for ICE to conflate the arrests of criminals and non-criminals in an operation the agency describes as necessary for community safety. He said when ICE casts a wide net on who's picked up, it puts fear in the community that anyone can be a target.
“Let’s not scare a significant portion of our population – scare them from calling police, scare them from reporting crimes, from being good witnesses to crimes," Urquhart said. "ICE shouldn’t try to wrap themselves in the flag of 'community safety' if that’s not happening 100 percent of the time."
In a statement, ICE said that during enforcement operations officers frequently encounter additional suspects who may be in the U.S. unlawfully. Those persons are individually evaluated and, when appropriate, arrested by ICE.
Under President Obama, serious criminals were a priority for deportation. An executive order from President Trump expanded that to include people who could be charged with a crime, but haven’t been.
Of the people arrested last weekend, most are originally from Mexico and 19 lived in King County.