Atlanta field office tops ICE arrests amid immigration crackdown

Federal immigration authorities operating out of an Atlanta field office covering Georgia and the Carolinas have arrested the largest number people of any field office in the nation — 127 — since resuming a nationwide crackdown in late January, new federal figures show.

In all, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has apprehended 336 people as part of “Operation Border Guardian.” The focus, according to ICE, is on people who came here illegally as unaccompanied children after Jan. 1 of 2014, who are now older than 18, who have been ordered removed by immigration judges and who do not have pending appeals or claims of asylum or other relief.

ICE could not provide a state-by-state breakdown of where the 336 people were taken into custody. Instead, the federal agency this week released numbers by its field offices, some of which cover more than one state, like the Atlanta office. Here’s a breakdown ICE provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Atlanta: 127

Baltimore: 4

Boston: 18

Buffalo: 1

Chicago: 13

Dallas: 26

Denver: 1

Detroit: 11

El Paso: 1

Houston: 11

Los Angeles: 15

Miami: 44

New Orleans: 6

Newark: 7

New York: 6

Philadelphia: 8

Phoenix: 2

Salt Lake: 4

San Antonio: 15

Seattle: 6

St. Paul: 4

Washington: 6

These arrests followed immigration raids that resulted in the detention of 121 adults and children in Georgia and elsewhere earlier in January. Of that number, 77 have been deported, according to ICE.

Federal immigration authorities have been grappling with how to respond to waves of Central American immigrants who are fleeing violence and poverty and illegally crossing the southwest border. During a stop in Atlanta this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said the thorny problem may be part of a “new normal.”

Among those who have been arrested and detained in Georgia is Kimberly Pineda-Chavez from Suwanee.

In a telephone interview from the Irwin County Detention Center last week, she described how she fled Honduras in 2014 at age 17 to escape gangsters who threatened to make her and her younger sister their “sexual property.” Her attorneys, who have filed an asylum application for her, confirmed Wednesday that a federal immigration judge has temporarily halted efforts to deport her, though she remains detained.

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