SAN FRANCISCO -- Immigration agents arrested 186 people in Northern California and more than 2,900 nationwide in a weeklong sweep in search of illegal and legal immigrants with criminal records.

In the Bay Area, the majority of arrests occurred in Santa Clara County, where 35 immigrants were arrested, followed by 23 in Alameda County, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Most of those arrested in the Bay Area had prior felony convictions. Five are documented gang members.

News of the federal operation -- dubbed Cross Check -- arrived the same morning that President Barack Obama defended his administration's deportation strategy in an online round-table discussion with Latinos.

The administration repeatedly has said it would prioritize deporting criminals and egregious violators of immigration laws while halting the deportation of some illegal immigrants with strong community ties, such as students who grew up in the U.S. and graduated from American high schools.

White House officials said last month that a newly formed committee would begin a case-by-case review of roughly 300,000 pending deportation cases, but those reviews have not begun.

Immigration officials did not release the names and charges of those arrested in the seven-day sweep, but they said the arrests included two Bay Area men who had illegally re-entered the United States after being deported: a 37-year-old Daly City resident from Mexico with convictions for selling cocaine and failing to register as a sex offender; and a 52-year-old Stockton resident, also from Mexico, with convictions for voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon.

"We go out and arrest people every day, but not at this magnitude," said Timothy Aitken, who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement's field office in San Francisco. "You had every office in the country participating."