ICE Planning Mass Raids Targeting Immigrant Families Beginning Tomorrow
Following through on a threat made by the President earlier this week, immigration authorities are reportedly planning mass raids aimed primarily at immigrant families starting tomorrow.
The Washington Post reports that the Trump Administration is set to begin a crackdown targeting undocumented immigrants as early as tomorrow:
President Trump has directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to conduct a mass roundup of migrant families that have received deportation orders, an operation that is likely to begin with predawn raids in major U.S. cities on Sunday, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of the plans.
The “family op,” as it is referred to at ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, is slated to target up to 2,000 families in as many as 10 U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and other major immigration destinations, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the law enforcement operation.
Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan has been urging ICE, an agency within his department, to conduct a narrower, more targeted operation that would seek to detain a group of about 150 families that were provided with attorneys but dropped out of the legal process and absconded.
McAleenan has warned that an indiscriminate operation to arrest migrants in their homes and at work sites risks separating children from their parents in cases where the children are at day care, summer camp or friend’s houses. He also has maintained that ICE should not devote major resources to carrying out a mass interior sweep while telling lawmakers it needs emergency funding to address the crisis at the U.S. border.
Trump has been determined to go forward with the family operation after tweeting Monday that the immigration raids were coming next week as a first step toward his pledge for “millions” of deportations. The White House has been in direct communication with acting ICE director Mark Morgan and other ICE officials, circumventing McAleenan, three officials said.
ICE spokeswoman Carol Danko declined to discuss the operation, saying only that “as a law enforcement agency, ICE’s mission is to uphold the rule of law; operations targeting violators of immigration laws are not only standard practice, but within the statutory authority prescribed by Congress.”
DHS and White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
ICE has been preparing agents and equipment for the operation, which is expected to unfold across several days starting Sunday morning, the officials said. Discussions about the scope of the operation continued Friday at ICE, DHS and the White House, two officials said.
The agency is planning to use hotel rooms as temporary staging areas to detain parents and children until all the members of a family are together and ready for deportation. Officials also acknowledge that they might arrest individuals they cannot immediately deport — known as “collateral arrests” — and likely will release those people with ankle monitoring devices.
ICE agents have limited intelligence on the locations of the families with court-ordered deportations beyond their last known addresses. But White House and ICE officials believe agents will be able to make many “collateral arrests” by finding foreigners living in the country illegally at or near the target locations.
Large-scale immigration enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets, but Trump’s tweet Monday blew the cover off the roundup. That the operation was revealed publicly stunned law enforcement officials, and they believe it gave them more latitude to discuss the raids.
Some within DHS and ICE say the president appears to be using the operation for political purposes as he begins his reelection bid. Law enforcement officials worry that by publicly discussing the plan, Trump has undermined the chances of capturing those on the target list, as it could have pushed migrants with deportation orders underground.
The expedited family court docket, or “rocket docket,” was developed by Trump officials late last year in an effort to deport more migrant families with the belief that a highly visible roundup operation could have a deterrent effect on others in Central America considering the journey.
The Department of Justice fast-tracked the cases of thousands of families in major cities, obtaining “in absentia” deportation orders for people who did not show up for their court hearings.
The plan to carry out those deportations has been stalled, however, over concerns that it will enrage Democrats and sink whatever chances remain for achieving a bipartisan deal to close the gap in the dysfunctional U.S. asylum system.
More from NBC News:
Immigration authorities are planning a massive roundup Sunday of undocumented families that have received deportation orders, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The raids will take place in several cities across the country and could target up to 2,000 immigrants facing deportation orders, the sources said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Mark Morgan confirmed the planned operation on Friday.
“This is not about fear,” Morgan said in an interview with ABC News Live. “No one is instilling fear in anyone. This is about the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the system.”
Morgan said his agency will pursue more than 2,040 family members who are still living in the U.S. despite having received deportation orders. The goal, he said in the interview, was to deter others from entering the country illegally.
“Right now, the greatest pull factors for families to come here is they know that once they arrive in the U.S., they remain here untouched,” Morgan said. “We have to change that.”
Word of the planned round-up comes four days after President Donald Trump said ICE would soon deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” Trump tweeted Monday night, less than 24 hours before officially opening his re-election bid with a rally in Orlando, Florida.
Two Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News at the time that the “millions” figure the president used in his tweet was likely overblown.
On Friday, Morgan said there were no plans to conduct deportations in the millions. But he said it was necessary to target the undocumented families to maintain the “integrity” of the nation’s immigration system.
“We’re enforcing the law against all demographics,” he told ABC News Live.
Given that Trump announced this raid just prior to the speech kicking off his re-election bid, it’s not unfair to characterize this as something that is more politically motivated than aimed at dealing with a serious underlying problem. If it were the latter, the raids that ICE officials are talking about undertaking would be targeted at undocumented immigrants who have committed violent crimes and otherwise violated the law. Instead, these raids seem designed to increase the numbers of people taken into custody by targeting families even in cases where there is no underlying criminal record. In that respect, one could argue that the raids are as much targeted at satisfying Trump’s base, which is clearly as anti-immigrant as he has become and to goad the Democrats and Trump critics by undertaking action that is likely to take over the news cycle for the next week.
The biggest risk that these raids are taking from a political point of view, of course, is that they could easily lead to a situation where parents and children are being separated. This could be especially true in cases where the children were born in the United States, thus granting them American citizenship and meaning that they cannot be deported. Even in those cases where the children are not citizens, though, these raids could lead to a massive expansion of the separation policy that the Trump Administration has been enforcing with respect to migrant families that have arrived at the border.
All of this is happening in the context of renewed attention being paid to the conditions under which the aforementioned migrant children are being held. In just the past several days, there have been several accounts that seem to make clear that the conditions these children are being held in are not only no better than they were a year ago but apparently substantially worse.
A report published yesterday in The New York Times, for example, describes a tour of a facility in Texas housing children, some of them as young as 7 or 8 years old, described what can only be called inhumane and deplorable, with older teenagers forced to take care of younger children due to a lack of resources and children being housed in cages and going days without bathing or being allowed access to shower facilities. Similar reports have been published in The Washington Post, and by the Associated Press. In addition to this, attorneys for many of these migrant children are presenting more details about the appalling conditions under which they are being held in court proceedings related to the Trump Administration’s separation and detention policies. On top of all of this, the past several months have seen several children dying at these facilities for reasons that aren’t entirely clear but which are most likely related to the conditions in which they are being held.
Another factor at play here is the fact that the President and ICE officials announcing that these raids are going to take place could lead many of the people who are potential targets of these raids to go even further underground. Granted this is harder to do for people who have families and jobs, but given the fact that these are people already used to living in the shadows, it wouldn’t be surprising if many of the potential targets have already taken steps to try to make sure they can’t be captured. In other cases, the fact that these raids are beginning on a Sunday raises the possibility that some of these people will seek sanctuary in churches and other religious facilities, thus raising the prospect of standoffs between armed Federal agents and Priests and other religious figures. Not exactly the kind of thing that makes for favorable television coverage, except maybe on Fox News where they’re probably cheering stuff like this on enthusiastically.
Update: Late this afternoon, the President stated on Twitter that the ICE raids were being delayed: