LOS ANGELES --Immigration authorities arrested more than 160 people throughout Southern California over five days of raids, officials said Friday.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said the "targeted enforcement operation" resulted in arrests of about 150 who had criminal histories. Of the other 10, five had been ordered deported or had been deported in the past.
The raids triggered protests in downtown Los Angeles late Thursday that blocked an entrance to the 101 Freeway.
It also sparked questions from immigrant-rights groups and political leaders who believed it was tied to the new tougher immigration stance of the Trump administration.
"Make no mistake about it: these sweeps are directly linked to President Trump's 'new normal' where criminalizing and dehumanizing immigrants is convenient to violate their due process and facilitate their deportation," CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said.
ICE, however, said the arrests were part of their routine operations.
"While this week's operation was an enforcement surge, the focus was no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis," the agency said.
CHIRLA held a vigil at an ICE detention center in downtown Los Angeles Thursday night as they received preliminary word of the raids.
Afterward, about 150 protesters took to the streets of downtown and blocked an entrance to the southbound 101 Freeway.
CHIRLA complained that ICE was not providing enough information about the raids. At a CHIRLA press conference, one woman said her father, who has no criminal history, was caught up in the raid and detained for some time when ICE agents were looking for someone else.
The organization is also launching a new effort to make sure immigrants understand their legal rights.
Several Los Angeles-area elected leaders also responded to news of the raids, demanding more information from the agency.
"It's outrageous that ICE would go into the homes of hard-working people and tear them away from their children," said U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley.
"I'm demanding that ICE provide me, the representative of this community, with more information and the purpose of these raids. This is just one more action by this Administration that hurts our communities and our economy. I will not sit quietly by while they seek to harm the people of my district."
An ICE statement issued later Friday afternoon provided some details about the raids.
It did not provide an exact breakdown but said that "many" of those arrested had prior felony convictions for serious offenses that included child sex crimes, weapons, and assault. It said 95 percent of the arrestees were men.
Those arrested included:
-- One member of the Salvadoran gang MS-113 arrested in Huntington Park who was wanted in his home country for aggravated extortion.
-- A Brazilian national in Los Angeles wanted in Brazil for cocaine trafficking.
-- An Australian national in West Hollywood previously convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child.