President Donald Trump has postponed a massive ICE operation that would have targeted 2,000 families with members who have received deportation orders.
The raids were set to begin Sunday, nearly a week after Trump tweeted that “ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
Saturday, only roughly 12 hours before the predawn raids were set to begin, the president tweeted the operation will not begin for at least two weeks — if it is carried out at all — in order to give Congress time to “get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.” Should he not be satisfied with lawmakers’ progress in that time, Trump wrote, “Deportations start!”
At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!
As the Washington Post reported, the raid were to be conducted as as part of a “family op” across 10 cities. In his first tweet, Trump called for a far greater number of people to be detained, promising “millions of illegal aliens” would be deported; the ICE action nevertheless would have been incredibly large in scope, and not without risk for communities where immigrants live and places where they work.
In an interview with ABC, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Mark Morgan said the raids are about maintaining the “rule of law.” And though a ramped-up enforcement effort had been in the works, Trump’s decision to publicly telegraph a major law enforcement operation was an unusual one for a president to make. Coming as it did the evening before his 2020 reelection kickoff, his announcement appeared to be motivated by politics more than necessity. And as I detailed on Tuesday, ICE was blindsided by his tweet.
The Post reports that law enforcement officials felt comfortable talking to the publication on background about the raids because of Trump’s tweet, and expressed concerns both about Trump’s motivations and the raids themselves:
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 likely pushed migrants with deportation orders underground.
ICE didn’t revealed much about the operational logistics of the forthcoming raids, but here’s some of what we knew about them.
CNN reports that raids would have occurred in 10 large cities that are “immigration court locations:” Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco, and were intended to detain people from up to 2,000 families.
Morgan told reporters earlier this month that ICE would be targeting “individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.”
Last year, the Trump administration developed an expedited legal process for migrant families, which, according to the Post, fast-tracked “the cases of thousands of families in major cities, obtaining ‘in absentia’ deportation orders for thousands of families that did not show up for their court hearings.”
But just because one or more members of a family have deportation orders doesn’t mean they are the hardened criminals that Trump often portrays them as being. (In a departure from Obama administration policy, Trump hasn’t made distinctions between undocumented immigrants who have criminal records and those that don’t.)
After news of the raids broke, and ACLU and RAICES — or the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services — posted tweets aimed at educating immigrants about their rights if they or someone they know is swept up in one of the raids.
The ICE warrant on the left does NOT authorize agents to enter a home without permission.
La orden de ICE a la izquierda NO autoriza a los agentes a entrar al domicilio sin permiso. https://twitter.com/glitteryybutt/status/1141503846885351425 …thalia ☆@glitteryybutt
The difference between an ICE warrant and a JUDGE warrant.
ICE officials planned for the raids be conducted over the course of several days; they would have begun early Sunday morning. As the Wall Street Journal reports, carrying out raids in the early morning is standard as it increases the chances those ICE are looking for will be at home.
ICE agents would have worked from a “target list” that contains the last known addresses of people with deportation orders. Agents also planned to make “collateral arrests,” arrests both of undocumented immigrants they encounter that they weren’t looking for, as well as of people they want to monitor but can’t immediately begin the deportation process for. Those collateral arrests may have included the family members of those with deportation orders, as well as neighbors of people on the target list. Those detained in collateral arrests that weren’t able to be immediately deported would have been fitted with ankle monitors and released.
ICE planned to temporarily house detained families in hotel rooms and family residential detention centers. Parents and children that were not arrested as a unit would have been reunited so that they could be deported as a family.
Should the raid have captured parents slated for deportation who have children who are US citizens, as was likely, CNN reports immediate caregivers (be they parents or other relatives) might have been fitted with ankle monitors and released in order to coordinate care for their children; other detained family members would not have be released. According to The New York Times, ICE agents might have also kept citizen children in hotel rooms with their parents until a relative came to pick them up.
Despite these measures, officials and advocacy groups feared children who have lived in the US for years could return home to find their parents have been taken by ICE agents. Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan reportedly argued for reducing the scope of the upcoming operation in part due to concerns children who are away from home due to summer activities, such as visiting relatives, would have been left without primary caregivers.
And Sandra Cordero, director of the immigrant advocacy group Families Belong Together, told the Wall Street Journal, “Past raids have left children alone and afraid in empty homes, praying they won’t be left to care for younger siblings by themselves, with no idea if they’ll see their parents again,” and called the operation “another flagrant disregard for the welfare of children.”
The raid was vehemently opposed by many of the mayors of the cities it was set to be conducted in. Many, like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, told ICE not to expect any support from local police, and all advised undocumented immigrants to know their rights before the raid.
Saturday morning, President Trump reiterated his support for the operation. He again portrayed the immigrants slated for deportation as hardened criminals, tweeting the raid would see the detention of people who have “run from the law and run from the courts” and proclaimed, “When people come into our Country illegally, they will be DEPORTED!”
The people that Ice will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported. This means that they have run from the law and run from the courts. These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country. They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying.
Despite this, by Saturday afternoon, the president had changed his mind. He now says he hopes the threat of raids will push Congress to act, and that he expects lawmakers to have settled on an immigration solution in two weeks, something the House and the Senate have been unable to do for years.
These raids were controversial even within the Trump administration, in part because they’re risky
The Washington Post reported last month that former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and former ICE Acting Director Ronald Vitiello were ousted from the administration in April in part because they were concerned that raids like the ones ICE is now planning to go forward with would be “bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked.”
Indeed, there are indications that the raids would have been somewhat indiscriminate, in part because of intelligence shortcomings. From the Post:
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.
The publicity Trump has given to the operations will likely cause some undocumented immigrants who have received deportation orders and are living in affected cities to go underground. But ICE believed agents would have been able to arrest others who weren’t necessarily targets that were happened upon during the operation.
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has also reportedly pushed back on the large-scale “family op,” advocating a much more limited plan that would target approximately 150 families, per the Post.
It could well be that the president is buying time to gather more intelligence; he could also truly hope the pressure will force Congress into a success that has long eluded it. More will become clear in two weeks’ time, after the president’s deadline for a border and asylum deal.