Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of members of families who are in the country illegally have been scheduled to begin Sunday, according to one former and two current homeland security officials, moving forward with a rapidly changing operation. The operation, backed by President Donald Trump, had been postponed, partly because of resistance among officials at his own immigration agency.
The raids, which will be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement over multiple days, will include “collateral” deportations, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the preliminary stage of the operation. In those deportations, the authorities might detain immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids.
When possible, family members who are arrested together will be held in family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. But because of space limitations, some might end up staying in hotel rooms until their travel documents can be prepared.
The officials said ICE agents were targeting at least 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported — some as a result of their failure to appear in court — but who remain in the country illegally. The operation is expected to take place in at least 10 major cities.
The families being targeted crossed the border recently. In February, many of those immigrants were given notice to report to an ICE office and leave the United States, the officials said.
The threat of deportation has rattled immigrant communities, prompted backlash from local politicians and police officials and stoked division inside the Department of Homeland Security — the agency that is charged with carrying out the deportations.
Agents have expressed apprehensions about arresting babies and young children, officials have said. The agents have also noted that the operation might have limited success because word has already spread among immigrant communities about how to avoid arrest — namely, by refusing to open the door when an agent approaches. ICE agents are not allowed to forcibly enter a home.
Defense lawyers are likely to file motions to reopen the families’ immigration cases, which would delay if not stop altogether their removal from the United States.