Democrats and advocacy groups are raising concerns over the latest reports that the Trump administration is planning to ramp up its enforcement efforts and conduct immigration raids across the country on Sunday.
“We pray that the president will think about this again,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.
Some Democrats alleged that the point of the raids is not to have an orderly process of immigration and deportation but part of a broader White House policy of deterrence to reduce the numbers coming to the southwest border.
“Thousands of individuals, families and children will once again be displaced from their homes and placed in detention facilities,” Democratic Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin said. “And the administration of course will blame someone else for it. But it’s their design and their decision to go after these families — not because they are criminals, not because they are a danger to their neighborhoods, not at all, simply because it is part of their deterrence strategy.”
The Trump administration previously delayed a major immigration raid that was supposed to take place in June after the Washington Post first reported on the raid, and after members of Congress objected to the raids while they were negotiating a border aid supplemental budget request with the White House.
The raids were expected to take place in 10 major cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Denver.
The administration said it delayed the immigration raid last month hoping that Congress would find a legislative solution to close certain “loopholes” in the immigration laws. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said three weeks ago that he would draft a bill to change asylum laws, but so far the South Carolina Republican has not come up with legislation.
Pelosi said pressure from outside groups helped stall the previous enforcement drive and she said she’s hopeful the groups will weigh in again to help stop the planned raids.
Bracing for the prospective raids, the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking to block the deportation of migrants who were ordered removed, arguing that numerous government errors in sending out notices for hearings, and in some cases, “deliberate misdirection” are the reasons migrants did not show up to court.
“The Trump Administration’s plan to arrest and deport thousands of Central American families and children without giving them a fair day in court is both illegal and immoral,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, in a statement. “More than one hundred years ago, the Supreme Court decided that immigrants could not be deported without due process. These vulnerable refugees deserve that basic protection.”
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not reveal details of the planned raids but said that enforcement actions are aimed at people who are a threat to “national security, public safety and border security.” The spokesman said “90 percent of aliens arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations component in [fiscal year] 2018 had either a criminal conviction(s), pending criminal charge(s), were an ICE fugitive, or illegally reentered the country after previously being removed.”
ICE records show that the largest number of arrested migrants have charges related to drunk driving or marijuana, not violent crimes.
Douglas Rivlin, director of communication for America’s Voice, an advocacy group in favor of an immigration overhaul, said on Thursday that “the massive and glaring failure of the Trump approach on immigration gives this deportation operation the smell of desperation.”
“The president and his new team of immigration ‘tough guys’ want to show how tough they are, but the political motivations are brazen and the cruelty that will be inflicted by neighborhood ‘family operations’ will be widely felt in American communities,” Rivlin said.
Some advocacy groups called the upcoming immigration raid a “political stunt.”
“While children and parents are mistreated and abused at detention camps, the administration will add more fire to this burning house by separating more families and sowing more chaos across our communities,” Sergio Gonzales, deputy director of the Immigration Hub, a group that lobbies for new immigration policies, said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy came to President Donald Trump’s defense, telling reporters Thursday that part of the president’s motivation for launching ICE raids this weekend is the inaction in Congress since previous raids were delayed.
“Has there been a hearing? Has there been a bill produced? Have we asked to stay over a weekend and solve this problem? I think if the president actually saw the House actually taking action, he’d probably delay even further to make sure the problem gets solved,” the California Republican said.
Democrats in the House have shown little willingness to change asylum laws although Pelosi said on Thursday she had some flexibility.
Pelosi reiterated her interested in a comprehensive rewrite of immigration laws but said that can’t be done in two weeks. She also was skeptical of whether it could be done in conjunction with the current Republican-controlled Senate and White House but noted there may be some things they could work on together, which Graham has begun discussing with her.
“We did have that initial conversation and there may be some possibilities,” she said.
Congress cleared at the end of June a $4.59 billion supplemental funding bill to address the humanitarian and enforcement needs at the border.
However, many Democrats said the bill did not go far enough in addressing the treatment of minors in detention facilities.
A coalition of Senate Democrats led by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer introduced a bill on Thursday that would end the practice of family separations and would create a set of health and safety standards to ensure the well-being of migrants in detention centers. Many of the provisions are similar to those that Democrats tried unsuccessfully to get attached to the supplemental appropriations bill for the border in June.
“I call on the president to put an end to the cruelty that the migrants are being shown when they come into U.S. custody,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor Thursday. “It’s a necessary step to restoring America’s credibility.”
Schumer blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel for blocking Democratic efforts to pass legislation to address what’s happening at the border. The Kentucky Republican said he is willing to do “whatever it takes” to make sure this bill passes.
Pelosi also said that she would try to pass through the House in coming weeks a package of provisions setting out basic standards of care for migrants at the border. “We must take every action we can, every opportunity we have to end this child abuse,” she said.
Lindsey McPherson, Katherine Tully-McManus, and Tanvi Misra contributed to this report.
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.