In a tweet posted early Saturday, President Donald Trump defended U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids expected to start Sunday and target thousands of migrant families across the country. Immigration agents are expected to arrest and deport migrants facing deportation orders in ICE raids in 10 cities, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and San Francisco among others.
UPDATE: In a tweet on Saturday afternoon, President Trump announced that he would delay the ICE raids. He wrote, "At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!"
EARLIER: "The people that Ice (sic) will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported," the president tweeted Saturday. "This means that they have run from the law and run from the courts. These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country." Trump went on to allege that those targeted in ICE's upcoming raids "broke the law by coming into the country, [and] now by staying."
"When people come into our Country illegally, they will be DEPORTED!" he continued in a separate tweet.
ICE told The Miami Herald that immigration agents would carry out deportation raids in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, and San Francisco over the weekend. Agents are expected to first target those who'd been ordered removed in absentia, those who'd missed a court hearing or did not respond to letters mailed to them, and those who'd entered as unaccompanied minors but had since turned 18.
According to NPR, the ICE raids expected to kick off Sunday are largely believed to be targeted at recently-arrived migrant families who have had their cases fast-tracked by the Justice Department. These migrants were likely sent final deportation orders after failing to show up to court appointments, the news outlet reported.
Henry Lucero, field office director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations in Phoenix, Arizona, told reporters in a press call that some 2,100 letters directing people to appear in immigration court were mailed in March, The Miami Herald reported. According to the paper, Lucero said only 65 people actually showed up. The rest were issued deportation orders.
Families arrested in the ICE raids are expected to be held in ICE family detention centers while immigration agents work to coordinate their deportation with consulates, according to CNN. In cases where U.S. citizen children stand to be separated from an undocumented parent, the parent would reportedly receive an ankle monitoring bracelet and be allowed to stay with the child only until suitable arrangements could be made.
Immigration advocates as well as a number of city officials and even some Democratic 2020 candidates have spoken out against the planned raids. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, for example, directed local police not to cooperate with ICE and to terminate the agency's access to police databases that contain information on federal immigration enforcement activities, CNN has reported.
Faced with growing criticism over the raids, acting ICE Director Mark Morgan defended the raids in comments to NPR on Friday. "My duty is not to look at the political optics, or the will the American people, that's for the politicians to decide," Morgan said. "What the American people should want us to do as law enforcement officials is to enforce the rule of law and maintain the integrity of that system."
Earlier in the week, Trump had said ICE would "begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States."