A weeklong, multistate operation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency led to the arrests of 26 people in the Kansas City area and dozens more elsewhere in Kansas and Missouri, according to authorities.
The operation last week included six Midwestern states and unfolded over several days as similar actions netted hundreds more arrests in major metro areas across the country. On Sunday, rumors of immigration sweeps at Kansas City churches proved unfounded but pointed to widespread anxiety in the community.
Federal officials insist they have not made fundamental changes in enforcement actions and that the recent actions are part of regularly scheduled operations.
The arrests in the Kansas City area targeted people who had illegally entered the country and had been convicted of crimes, according to ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer. Some of those arrested had been convicted of charges that included drug and weapons possession, drunken driving and child abuse. Some had been convicted of illegal entry or minor traffic violations. Two did not appear to have faced a criminal charge but were present in the country without documents, Neudauer said.
Several of the arrests took place in surrounding cities, including Independence, Lawrence and Excelsior Springs. Most of those arrested had come from Mexico. Others came from Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador. One man came from France.
The agency arrested another 32 people in Wichita, Dodge City, Garden City and surrounding areas, and 13 in the St. Louis area. The entire operation, across Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky, ended with 235 arrests.
In the wake of the arrests, and renewed fears of the widespread immigration crackdown promised by President Donald Trump, Kansas City Public Library officials will host a letter-writing event Saturday to offer support to immigrants. Library officials said the event had been planned months ago.
The Kansas-Missouri Dream Alliance, along with lawyers, faith leaders and other community organizations, mobilized Sunday to respond to the rumored sweeps at area churches.
ICE officials pushed back against those rumors Sunday, saying the agency does not set up checkpoints or conduct indiscriminate raids on immigrants.
Neudauer said the enforcement action last week was a regular practice that the agency has conducted for years and that it targeted specific individuals considered to be fugitive criminals.
Immigration enforcement teams make such arrests every day, Neudauer said. Actions like the one last week occur when all of the agency’s teams in a given region go out at once with lists of individuals to arrest.
Some of those arrested last week may be quickly deported if they have already been convicted of illegal re-entry, Neudauer said. Others may be held in custody or released on bond while their cases work through the courts.
Meanwhile, Trump on Sunday morning said that with the nationwide crackdown, he is keeping his campaign promise.
“The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” he tweeted. “Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!”