Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers gather after raids to arrest undocumented immigrants, New York City, April 11, 2018 (John Moore/Getty)
In his latest anti-immigrant/2020 re-election statement, Donald Trump has vowed mass arrests of undocumented immigrants within days.
Amid reports of an Administration plan to seize thousands of parents and children in major US cities, Trump tweeted on Monday night:
Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
While Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations are usually secret to avoid tipping off targets, Trump and his hardline anti-immigration advisor Stephen Miller are pressing Homeland Security officials to detain family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of the “rocket docket”.
In April, acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were fired after they objected to implementation of the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness, and the risk of public criticism.
Last year, under its “zero tolerance policy”, the Administration ordered the separation of children from undocumented parents, sending the juveniles hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Almost 3,000 were seized before courts ordered the halt of the operations, but amid the chaos of the separations and detentions, the Government has acknowledged that some children will not see parents for up to two years.
Vitiello was replaced at ICE by former FBI and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan, who impresses Trump with his TV statements for harsh anti-immigration measures, according to sources.
In his first two weeks as acting ICE Director, Morgan has said that he plans to accelerate operations:
Our next challenge is going to be interior enforcement. We will be going after individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.
That will include families.
But US officials have said the implementation is not imminent, and ICE staff said last night that they were not aware that Trump intended to divulge the plans on Twitter.
In fact, ICE arrests in US have been declining in recent months, with many agents deployed to deal with a surge of migrant families coming across the US-Mexico border.
Homeland Security officials are concerned that families will be inadvertently separated by the raids, when parents have deportation orders but their children — some of whom are US citizens — do not. But Miller, Morgan and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence are arguing for a dramatic and highly-publicized operation.
Linking his anti-immigration position and pursuit of a second term — but frustrated in getting money for his Wall with Mexico — Trump has pursued a series of high-profile threats this year. He shut down the Government for a record-setting 35 days but, still unable to get Congressional funds for the Wall, declared a “national emergency” to take the money from the US military and other agencies. He said he might close the entire US-Mexico border before promising tariffs on Mexico if they would not keep all migrants heading to the US.
While the Mexicans largely restated their positions from agreements in December and March with US officials, a joint statement earlier this month allowed Trump to declare “victory” with his approach — even as the flow of migrant families into the US, many seeking asylum, reversed a steady decline for more than 20 years.