US officials conduct vast immigration sweep in Los Angeles
(AFP Photo/Ron Rogers)

US federal agents said Friday they arrested 212 people in Los Angeles for violating federal immigration laws.

The vast majority -- 88 percent -- of those arrested "were convicted criminals," the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement.

The arrests were carried out in a five-day operation that ended Thursday in the second most populous US urban center.

Los Angeles is a "sanctuary city" that does not collaborate with federal officials on detaining people suspected of violating immigration laws.

"Because sanctuary jurisdictions like Los Angeles prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, our officers are forced to conduct at-large arrests in the community," said ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan.

This puts "officers, the general public and the aliens at greater risk and increasing the incidents of collateral arrests," he said.

While the focus of the sweep was to arrest undocumented migrants with a criminal record, others without such a record were also picked up.

"All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," the statement read.

ICE did not specify those arrested by nationality when asked by AFP.

The agents also served 122 notices of inspection to Los Angeles-area businesses, warning "that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law."

If they fail the audit, the businesses "will face civil fines and potential criminal prosecution," the statement said.