CHICAGO — The Trump administration is moving forward with a nationwide immigration enforcement operation targeting migrant families, despite loud opposition from Democrats and questions over whether it’s the best use of resources given the crisis at the border.

The operation could happen as soon as this weekend after being postponed by President Donald Trump late last month. It would pursue people with final deportation orders, including families whose immigration cases were fast-tracked by judges in 10 major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami.

The plan has sparked outrage and concern among immigrant-rights advocates and lawmakers.

“Our communities have been in constant fear,” Estela Vara, a Chicago-area organizer, said Thursday at a rally outside the city’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement offices where some activists chanted “Immigration Not Deportation!”

The sweep remains in flux and could begin later, according to two administration officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The American Civil Liberties Union pre-emptively filed a lawsuit Thursday in an attempt to protect asylum-seekers.

Meanwhile, activists ramped up efforts to prepare by bolstering know-your-rights pocket guides, circulating information about hotlines and planning public demonstrations. Vigils outside detention centers and hundreds of other locations nationwide were set for Friday evening, to be followed by protests Saturday in Miami and Chicago.

The operation is similar to ones conducted regularly since 2003 that often produce hundreds of arrests. It is slightly unusual to target families, as opposed to immigrants with criminal records, but it’s not unprecedented. The Obama and Trump administrations have targeted families in previous operations.

This latest effort is notable because of the politics swirling around it.

Trump announced on Twitter last month that the sweep would mark the beginning of a push to deport millions of people who are in the country illegally, a near-impossibility given the limited resources of ICE, which makes the arrests and carries out deportation orders.

Then he abruptly canceled the operation after a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, while lawmakers worked to pass a $4.6 billion border aid package. Plus, details had leaked, and authorities worried about the safety of ICE officers.

The agency said it would not discuss specifics of enforcement operations.

“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” it said in a statement.

Trump started hinting anew in recent days that more removals were coming. He said last weekend they would be starting “fairly soon.”

“Well, I don’t call them raids,” he said. “I say they came in illegally and we’re bringing them out legally.”

Ken Cuccinelli, the new head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, told CNN on Wednesday that the raids were “absolutely going to happen.”

Pelosi said she hoped the administration would reconsider. “Families belong together,” she said.

Advocates in border areas have “received word” that up to 1,000 families are expected to arrive at an immigration center in Dilley, Texas, according to attorneys representing separated families in a long-running lawsuit.

In court papers filed Thursday, the attorneys said the government has not responded to questions about the operation.

The administration has been straining to manage a border crisis, and some officials believe flashy shows of force in deporting families would deter other migrants from coming. But others have criticized any move that draws resources away from the border at a time when the Border Patrol is detaining four times the number of people it can hold. Also, a watchdog report found filthy, potentially dangerous conditions at some stations.

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a former immigrant advocate, accused the administration of showing a “willingness to be cruel at every turn.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, blamed Pelosi for the raids, saying she had done “nothing” since they were delayed. “It is the speaker who caused this problem,” he said.

He said Trump would have postponed the raids again if he saw progress in the House.

Some activists said they were gearing up for operations to start Sunday and planned to protest. Organizers estimated a rally planned for Saturday in Chicago would draw around 10,000 people.

“We will not be swayed by fear and fiat,” said Justin Valas with Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago.

In New Orleans, any operations were put on hold due to severe weather. The city tweeted that it confirmed with ICE that enforcement would be suspended through the weekend as the region braced for the first hurricane of the season.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, argued that thousands of migrants fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were not allowed a fair chance to request asylum due but were still ordered removed from the country.

They are asking that those individuals get another hearing.

Others said they were skeptical that Trump would follow through on the threat.

Advocates have ramped up know-your-rights training since Trump took office, reminding immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, about their right to remain silent and to ask authorities for proper paperwork.

They have also explained that immigrants can often avoid arrest simply by not opening doors to agents, who need permission to enter private homes. That has forced ICE officers to wait outside courthouses and other public places to make arrests.

“We don’t want to alarm folks, but we want to alert folks,” said Melissa Taveras of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) comments

sevenstones1000

Remember that time Mary and Joseph became undocumented immigrants in Egypt to protect their baby? No papers. Remember that time Otto Frank desperately tries to get his family away from the Nazis and America didn’t want “those people”, like the kind who write diaries and such.

BugsnBunnys

Thank You Mr. Trump! That is one of the many reasons I voted for you and continue to support you!

KR999

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Bugs!

KR999

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Bugs!

Thewheelone

How was the Stones concert, CD?[wink]

KR999

Not the best I've seen, and I've seen them 13 times now. We had seats 4 rows up from the ground, about 50' from the stage left walkway, and the heat and humidity was pretty bad, even after dark. They didn't play any new material, just the same stuff I've heard for all the decades that I've been a fan of theirs. It was my wife's first time seeing them and I believe my last. They did sound really good and it was a great show, though. The stages for the '89, '94, and '97 tours were spectacular and I guess those shows just must have spoiled me. Thanks for asking. PS, I'm wondering if their show Monday night in N.O. is still on, some parts of La. are forecast to get 18" of rain from Barry...….

Frayou

When will people understand a County without laws or people who do not abide by the law or whose government does not enforce will eventually turn into a county of lawlessness, or worse anarchy? I sense this country is approaching that point. Especially when you have politicians encouraging policy.

thump1202

Posturing to appeal to his base, don't expect many results from this so called operation, it's being telegraphed all the way. Trump is powerless to do anything against illegal immigration, our betters have decided America has been free for too long.

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thump1202

Start with Congress, the current law fines business owners it does not jail them. Your feels do not create law.

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thump1202

Quite a leap from deporting to rounding up in camps, don't you think? Remember your buddy FDR and the Japanese American legal citizens he rounded up into camps, that's a better comparison to when your third Reich socialist friend rounded up legal citizen Jewish Germans.

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francesca_easa

I agree. If he allowed illegal immigrants to be hired, and disregarded the rule oif law, he should also be rounded up and sent away.

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francesca_easa

You are really put of line with that remark.

francesca_easa

Alarming that some folks support illegal immigration and expect the US to pay for our guests' welfare because they have no interest in improving their own countries. Would you truly allow someone to enter your home, property or place of work without invitation and then be shamed into providing their education, shelter, free food and health care? I hate to see it coming to this but I guess temporary immigration status, abiding immigration rules and overstaying one's visa have been so disregarded, that a hard stance is now needed.

thump1202

If we adopted Canada's immigration policy we'd be in a min better place. Ours is horribly broken and no politician can stand against the combined mafia power of the DNC and RNC who truly do not care about what they regard as politically expedient disposables. We need to leave tribes aside and demand action, vote out anyone who does not take action on this starting with McConnell and Schumer

sevenstones1000

Francesca, hey aren’t I your home unless they are cleaning it and they aren’t on your property unless they are re-reroofing your house or mowing your lawn. These are decent people who want to work. Like you, they would do anything for a better life and safety for their children. God bless and keep them safe.

KR999

Head 'em up, move 'em OUT!!!

david_gaithersburg

Forty years late better than never.

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