President Trump, in his eagerness to play to his xenophobic base, may have let the cat out of the bag this week about a pending, widespread operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — via tweet, of course.
ICE has apparently stepped up its schedule for deportation raids in 10 cities thanks to Trump's pre-emptive announcement, and the raids are reportedly set to happen on Sunday, according to CNN. San Francisco is among the cities likely being targeted, as KPIX notes, along with Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and New York.
Bizarrely, though hardly surprisingly, Trump exaggerated the number of people being targeted in the upcoming raids, saying it would be "millions." As CNN reports, the operation is expected to be targeting about 2,000 families — all of whom received letters from ICE in February. The letters informed these families, who are known to the immigration system, of their final orders of removal by judges in absentia, asking them to self-deport by March.
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
Also not surprisingly, Trump put out that tweet right before his first rally announcing his re-election campaign, in Florida.
Following on the president's tweet, acting ICE director Mark Morgan made a statement Wednesday saying that upcoming deportations of whole families would "send a strong message to those individuals contemplating coming here illegally not to do so."
Once detained by ICE, families will likely be moved to detention centers — and ICE was reportedly seeking out real estate for such centers in Northern California just a month ago.
The imminence of the raids was signaled by briefings and trainings at local field offices, according to one official who spoke to CNN.
ICE has reportedly been trying to keep the scope and timing of the operation secret, and the agency had considered delaying it for political reasons, as CNN reports via administration officials. They were concerned with the potential for "a backlash against the department" when it comes to Congressional negotiations over the 2020 budget, especially if the raids result in separating families.
ICE has only made the following statement: "Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, the agency will not offer specific details related to ongoing enforcement operations before the conclusion of those actions."
Immigrant advocacy groups are reportedly mobilizing in preparation for Sunday as well.