WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency could target thousands of immigrant families across the United States on Sunday for deportation, after scrapping a similar plan he announced last month on Twitter.
ICE is expected to pursue at least 2,000 immigrants who have missed a court appearance or been ordered removed from the country, according to reporting Thursday by The New York Times. The raids are expected to take place in 10 cities across the U.S., leading to outcry from advocates and the president’s political opponents that the ultimate intent of the raids may be to instill fear in immigrant communities in order to deter further migration.
Trump often employs the tactic of threatening, but ultimately not taking action, in order to extract concessions.
“This is not an effort to root out dangerous criminals,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Thursday. “This is an act of brutish force designed to spread fear in the immigrant community. … ‘Make them afraid, and maybe they won’t come.’”
ICE spokesman Matthew D. Bourke would not confirm the pending raids or offer further details, citing “law enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.”
“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” he said in a Thursday statement. “However, 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.”
Department of Homeland Security and White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said any widespread ICE raids would hurt the LAPD within the Latino community.
“I’m worried about ICE impersonating the LAPD, who spend an inordinate amount of time each day trying to build trust in the community,” Soboroff said. “This does nothing but scare the community. We’re in the trust-building business. It’s very hurtful to everybody in Los Angeles.”
The on-again, off-again raids favored by the White House and some of the president’s most hardline aides are also deepening fissures within his already embattled Department of Homeland Security, the behemoth agency charged with domestic safety and tackling an ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.
In June, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan ordered then-acting ICE Director Mark Morgan to call off a previous “family op,” but Morgan appealed directly to the White House. Then, Trump announced the raids on Twitter on June 17.
Officials, lawyers and advocates scrambled to prepare in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Miami and New Orleans, where the operation would reportedly take place.
Days later, Trump pulled back.
“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,” he tweeted June 22. “If not, Deportations start!”
On July 1, Trump signed into law a $4.5 billion bill to address a migration surge at the southwest border. Last month, apprehensions at the border decreased by about 28%, from 132,880 in May to 37,893 in June. Officials attribute the decline to increased enforcement by Mexico and summer heat, among other factors.
As of Monday, Morgan is now acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, after the previous head resigned amid a growing scandal over reports of unsanitary conditions for migrant children in the agency’s custody.
Most top positions in the Homeland Security Department remain empty, fallout from a purge Trump kicked off in April when he said he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction.
Morgan did not respond to requests for comment on the ICE raids, but tensions have persisted between the CBP commissioner and McAleenan, his boss, following the canceled operation, as administration hardliners — and the president himself — register complaints about the acting secretary.