President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting next week, 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 U.S. 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, Trump wrote, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They will be removed as fast as they come in.
Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets to possible arrest. In 2017, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.
Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the 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.
U.S. officials with knowledge of the preparations have said in recent days that the operation was not imminent, and ICE officials said late Monday night that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter.
Executing a large-scale operation of the type under discussion requires hundreds and perhaps thousands of U.S. agents and supporting law enforcement personnel, as well as weeks of intelligence gathering and planning to verify addresses and locations of individuals targeted for arrest.
According to DHS officials, nearly all unauthorized migrants who came to the United States in 2017 in family groups remain present in the country.
Some of those families are awaiting adjudication of asylum claims, but administration officials say a growing number are skipping out on court hearings while hoping to live and work in the United States as long as possible.
Publicizing a future law enforcement operation is unheard of at ICE. Trump administration officials blasted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf last year for warning immigrants about an impending raid, saying she endangered agents’ safety.