NorCal ICE Official Says Agency ‘Focused on Public Safety' Not Deportations

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in Northern California said Wednesday that its focus is on criminal operations like counterfeiting and human trafficking and not deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Amid a lawsuit brought by the Trump administration against California’s so-called sanctuary laws, NBC Bay Area spoke to one of ICE’s top local officials who said the agency is “focused on public safety.”

“If you are involved in criminal activity we will investigate you aside from what your immigration status is,” Deputy Special Agent Jerry Templet said.

Last week, Templet’s Homeland Security Investigations team, a division of ICE that investigates criminal offenses, arrested one person in Berkeley as a part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Local activists said ICE took the man into custody because of his immigration status, but Templet told NBC Bay Area that deportation is handled by a separate group and that interrupting any ICE operations could be dangerous.

“I’m sure community will be eased and happy we were doing the type of work we were doing,” Templet said.

Meanwhile, a federal judge is poised to order ICE’s acting director to testify in the lawsuit filed against the state of California for laws that extend protection to people living in the United States illegally.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman said Wednesday that his "strong inclination" is to require four hours of sworn testimony by ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan.

Newman says Homan must back up claims in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the federal government is suffering "irreparable harm" from three California laws that extend protections to undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Justice Department attorneys say Homan and a senior Customs and Border Protection official will give depositions next month.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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