Department of Homeland Security officials have told the New York Times that mass arrests of undocumented immigrants will hit at least 10 U.S. cities on Sunday. The Donald Trump-sanctioned operation had been postponed weeks ago, though the president recently hinted that immigration raids would begin soon.
After a massive public outcry—and pushback from officials within his own administration—Trump called off the scheduled raids, putting the onus on Congress to come up with a comprehensive immigration plan.
Fourteen days later, the mass deportation roundup is back on the table.
From the Times:
The raids, which will be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement over multiple days, will include “collateral” deportations, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the preliminary stage of the operation. In those deportations, the authorities might detain immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids.
When possible, family members who are arrested together will be held in family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. But because of space limitations, some might end up staying in hotel rooms until their travel documents can be prepared. ICE’s goal is to deport the families as quickly as possible.
The raids are expected to begin on Sunday, with more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants being targeted by the agency. The Times, citing DHS officials, writes that the goal of the operation is a “show of force to deter families from approaching the southwestern border.”
ICE spokesperson Matthew Bourke emailed USA Today a statement that neither confirmed nor denied the raid plan, citing the safety and security of ICE personnel.
But Bourke acknowledged that, while the agency stated its primary focus is on immigrants with criminal records, any undocumented immigrant could face being detained (this reinforces the Times’ reporting of “collateral” arrests).
“Ninety percent of aliens arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations component in FY2018 had either a criminal conviction, pending criminal charge, were an ICE fugitive or illegally reentered the country after previously being removed,” Bourke said.
It’s worth noting here how vague the criteria mentioned here is—particularly that of a “pending criminal charge”—which doesn’t specify the kind of crime, and, because due process has yet to take place, means the person hasn’t even been found guilty of the charge.
Questions remain about how effective the raids will be. From the Times:
Agents have expressed apprehensions about arresting babies and young children, officials have said. The agents have also noted that the operation might have limited success because word has already spread among immigrant communities about how to avoid arrest — namely, by refusing to open the door when an agent approaches one’s home. ICE agents are not legally allowed to forcibly enter a home.
The Trump administration has credited a drop in the number of migrants crossing the border to its mass deportation threats, as well as its recent “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires asylum-seekers attempting to cross the southern border to stay in Mexico after they are processed by federal agents. (The decision was made unilaterally, without consent from the Mexican government.)
However, border crossings also typically drop during the summer months, USA Today notes, with the oppressive heat deterring migrants from making the harrowing journey.