The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says that along with other law enforcement agencies, it has arrested 1,378 people across the U.S. in recent weeks in what officials called the largest anti-gang crackdown in the agency’s history, the Washington Post reports. More than two-thirds of those arrested are U.S. citizens. The arrests were part of a six-week initiative, from March 26 to May 6, led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit, which focuses on combating gangs and other criminal activity. Unlike the agency’s immigration section, HSI has broad powers to enforce hundreds of federal laws on crimes such as child exploitation, human smuggling, and drug and weapons trafficking.
The agency dubbed the operation Project New Dawn. ICE acting director Thomas Homan said 1,098 people were arrested on criminal charges; half were federal offenses, and the rest involved state crimes, mainly in the Houston, New York, Atlanta and Newark areas. “Let me be clear that these violent criminal street gangs are the biggest threat facing our communities,” Homan said. “We are not done.” ICE classifies people as gang members if they admit membership or violate federal or state anti-gang laws, or if they meet other criteria “such as having tattoos identifying a specific gang or being identified as a gang member by a reliable source.” Nationwide, the biggest gangs targeted were the Bloods, Sureños, the Crips and MS-13, an international gang with thousands of members in El Salvador, its command center.