Federal immigration authorities say they arrested 52 people in Central and South Texas last week.
The arrests came before telegraphed operations in 10 major cities, including Houston, that President Donald Trump had touted. The president tweeted Saturday that he would delay the large-scale raids to give Congress time to make adjustments to U.S. asylum laws.
ICE says its agents were targeting immigrants with final deportation orders and previous criminal records. All told, the agency says it arrested:
- 20 people in Laredo
- 16 people in the Austin/Waco area
- 9 people in the Rio Grande Valley
- 7 people in San Antonio
Authorities say 35 of those suspects had criminal convictions or pending charges. Eighteen of those arrested had been given a final order by immigration authorities to leave the U.S., and ICE said an additional 21 people had committed felonies by re-entering the country after deportation.
The vast majority (47) of the suspects are from Mexico, ICE said, while four suspects are from Honduras and one is Cuban.
Ahead of the expected roundups last weekend, ICE's Acting Director Mark Morgan told NPR immigration courts had sent final notice to 2,000 people in February, advising them to turn themselves in to the agency or leave the country. Morgan said "we have no choice" in enforcing immigration law and that his duty as the agency's leader was "not to look at the political optics or the will of the American people."
The enforcement action comes as congressional leaders negotiate a $4.5 billion spending bill to address the influx of migrants at the southern border. President Trump tweeted Saturday that he expected asylum to be addressed in that bill – though that could be tricky in the two-week timeframe – after which he said "deportations start."
As NPR points out, that bill doesn't currently contain language to adjust asylum laws.