On Thursday, Caitlin Dickerson and Zolan Kanno-Youngs at the New York Times reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will commence the arrests of potentially thousands of undocumented immigrants on Sunday. Similar to the initial reported plan, ICE agents are targeting at least 2,000 immigrants for deportation across 10 major cities and could also sweep up immigrants who aren’t the initial targets.
The Trump administration for weeks has been building up potential mass immigration raids, but thus far it has held off. President Donald Trump on June 17 tweeted that the following week ICE would begin removing “millions” of undocumented immigrants from the United States. But on June 22, he said he would hold off for two weeks, at Democrats’ request, to see if they could “get together to work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019
House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had called Trump to ask him to call off the raids, and she publicly welcomed the delay on Twitter. “Families belong together,” she wrote. But as Vox’s Ella Nilsen and Li Zhou noted at the time, Trump’s accompanying demand on asylum law “came out of the blue” and was one that Congress was never going to be able to tackle in the time frame he prescribed.
Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together. https://t.co/R9PDrfaKWj
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 22, 2019
The idea of immigration raids has been a fraught one, even within the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and ICE. According to the Times, immigration agents have “expressed apprehensions” about the prospect of potentially arresting children and babies, and within DHS, there’s been disagreement as to what to do:
For weeks last month, the ICE director at the time, Mark Morgan, signaled that agents would escalate efforts to round up families. Days before the operation was to begin, Mr. Trump forecast the plan on Twitter, blindsiding ICE agents whose safety officials feared would be compromised as a result.
In early June, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Kevin K. McAleenan, told Mr. Morgan to call off the operation. Mr. McAleenan did not support the raids, officials said at the time, in part out of concern that undocumented parents could be separated from any of their children who are American citizens.
As Vox noted last month, while the families targeted for deportation have likely received final orders that they are to leave the country, they may not have been accused of any crimes besides disobeying that order:
Last year, the Trump administration developed an expedited legal process for migrant families, which, according to the [Washington] 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.)
According to the Times, if family members are arrested together, they’ll be held in family detention centers — or, if there’s not enough room, hotels — until they can be deported.
Pro-immigrant groups last month put out advisories for potential targets as to what they are and aren’t allowed to do in the event an ICE agent comes knocking.
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://t.co/hl7Q1rv7sK
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 21, 2019
Also last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) used his presidential campaign email list to warn about raids. The cities where the raids at the time were supposed to take place were Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco. It’s likely the same cities will be targeted now.
To be sure, this could be yet another threat from the Trump administration and the raids will again be postponed. But per the Times report, this weekend the enforcement campaign could happen. On Wednesday, Ken Cucinnelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters that raids are “absolutely going to happen,” though he declined to comment on the timing.