US immigration officials have said immigration raids targeting thousands of families will take place in major cities across the United States starting on Sunday – less than a month after delaying a similar operation.
Such a move could see parents separated from US citizen children, more detained families and a flurry of legal challenges.
Department of Homeland Security officials from the Trump administration, speaking anonymously, told newspapers that details of the raids had not been finalized, but would probably begin on Sunday and occur in at least 10 major cities.
The raids would target at least 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported and crossed the border recently, though other undocumented people could also be arrested if the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agency intercepts them during the operation, according to the New York Times
The operation was first announced by Donald Trump on Twitter in late June – prompting immigrant advocates to ramp up efforts to educate migrants on their rights, including that they do not have to open their door to Ice agents unless the agents have a court warrant.
Among the myriad concerns raised by advocates is that some people ordered deported may never have received notices to appear in court and present their case. The Trump administration often accuses migrants of deliberately ignoring these notices, but in the past year, attorneys have complained that documents were sent to the wrong addresses or listed incorrect hearing dates and times, including midnight, when court is not in session, and 31 November, which doesn’t exist.
The US government could therefore arrest migrants who didn’t know they were supposed to be in court, which would allow the arrested to reopen their cases, if they find access to an attorney.
Matthew Bourke, an Ice spokesman, told the Guardian the agency could not provide specific details related to enforcement operations to protect the safety and security of agents. “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,” Bourke said.
Hillary Clinton criticized the plan on Thursday, when news of the raids emerged alongside reports that the president may try to force the US census process to include a question asking people if they are citizens.
The president had not commented on the planned raids as of Thursday morning.
Trump’s own immigration agencies were reportedly blindsided by the president’s stunning decision in late June to tweet about a law enforcement operation before it occurred. Five days later, he announced the raids would be delayed.
The Trump administration’s aggressive anti-immigration policies have not yet resulted in the level of deportations seen under Barack Obama. In the last fiscal year, Ice removed 250,000 undocumented migrants, compared with 410,000 removed in 2012.
Trump, however, has done away with deportation priorities Obama put in place in his second term, and used anti-migrant rhetoric, which has created fear and instability in migrant communities.
Douglas Rivlin, communication director of the advocacy group America’s Voice, said the raids were politically motivated and cruel. Rivlin said in a statement. “The massive and glaring failure of the Trump approach on immigration gives this deportation operation the smell of desperation.”