US president reveals plans for mass arrests of immigrant families
US President Donald Trump said in a tweet in advance of his campaign launch last night that US immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting "next week".
It was an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major US cities.
"Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States," Mr Trump wrote, referring to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "They will be removed as fast as they come in."
Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Mr Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, California, with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.
Mr Trump has been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the US Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the "rocket docket".
In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.
Mr Vitiello was replaced at ICE by former FBI and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan, who had impressed the president with statements in favour of harsh immigration enforcement measures.
The president's claim that ICE would be deporting "millions" also was at odds with the reality of the agency's staffing and budgetary challenges. ICE arrests in the US interior have been declining in recent months because so many agents are busy managing the record surge of migrant families across the southern border with Mexico.
The family arrest plan has been considered even more sensitive than a typical operation because children are involved and Homeland Security officials retain significant concerns that families will be inadvertently separated by the operation, especially because parents in some households have deportation orders but their children - some of whom are US citizens - might not. (© Washington Post)