President Trump’s decision to postpone the mass arrests of immigrant families with deportation orders offered a two-week reprieve to shaken cities and towns Sunday, but faith and immigration leaders said they will continue to mobilize for roundups in case talks between the White House and congressional Democrats break down.
After Trump threatened raids a week ago, immigrant rights groups in Chicago, Washington, New York and nationwide publicized emergency hotlines, alerted volunteers and hastily arranged gatherings to teach immigrants what to do if an agent knocks on their door — efforts that are ongoing since the president called off the raids Saturday. The arrests were set to begin Sunday.
“We’re ready. We’re going to be vigilant,” said Richard Morales, director of the immigrant rights campaign for Faith in Action, a national faith-based network in more than 20 states. “Whether it happens today or it happens in two weeks, our congregation, our clergy, they’re ready to respond.”
Trump said Democrats pushed him to postpone the raids as they work toward a possible deal on overhauling the nation’s asylum laws and emergency spending legislation to provide an additional $4.5 billion, mostly for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security to deal with a record surge of Central American families and unaccompanied minors at the southern border.
But the president also is seeking greater power to detain and deport migrant families and unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally and seek asylum, because most are quickly released in the United States to await a court hearing and are rarely deported.
Advocates say families and children are fleeing violence, hunger and poverty, but Trump has said that “loopholes” in asylum laws are fueling the surge and that he is willing to wield his leverage to pry concessions from Democrats. He secured tougher enforcement measures from Mexico this month after threatening to impose tariffs on their exports.
“I want to give the Democrats every last chance to quickly negotiate simple changes to Asylum and Loopholes,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “This will fix the Southern Border, together with the help that Mexico is now giving us. Probably won’t happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”
Trump promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants from the United States during his 2016 campaign, but since then, he has largely fixated on the soaring crossings at the border. Interior arrests are down, but border apprehensions have been on track to hit 1 million this year, the highest numbers in more than a decade.
Trump’s threats jarred immigrant communities nationwide in recent days.
In the Washington area, five church congregations readied to offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, and advocates lined up volunteers to take their children to doctors’ appointments or summer school.
In Chicago, workers canvassed immigrant neighborhoods handing out informational cards, accompanied by the new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who told local media she had a message for Trump: “Back off.”
In downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, about 125 immigrant rights protesters gathered for a rally outside of a hulking six-story immigrant detention center holding signs that said “stop separating families.”
Speaking through a microphone, Melody Klingenfuss of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) broadcast tips on what to do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents knock on their doors. Record the raids with their phones. Don’t offer false documents.
Fifteen-year-old Jair Solis, who spoke at the rally, said ICE agents had knocked on their door four months ago, and the family had refused to answer. But they soon found Solis’s 43-year-old father as he left in his car for his job as a supervisor of a cleaning company. They took him to a detention center. CHIRLA paid his $5,000 bail, but Solis said his father lost his job.
Now, the Mexican national is trying to get his citizenship through the court process. Solis said he is optimistic.
“It’s just a long process,” he said. “My mom has been in the process for 20 years.”
As the raids loomed over the weekend, unconfirmed reports of immigration arrests from Arizona to Washington ricocheted across social media.
In Washington, immigrant advocates spent the day trying to confirm details of possible arrests in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights.
Community members called hotlines set up to receive reports of raids by ICE and dispatch volunteers into the communities to record and observe the arrests. But nobody could confirm the names of anyone who has been arrested.
Immigration officials declined to say whether they arrested anyone over the weekend.
A DHS official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the operation, said another routine ICE operation known as “Cross Check,” which targets migrants with criminal convictions, has been ongoing for several weeks. However, they have only netted a few hundred arrests so far, because immigrants are rarely found at the addresses they provide to authorities.
“People know we’re coming,” the DHS official said.
Trump’s decision to telegraph the family raids in a tweet one week ago exacerbated fissures among DHS leaders over the scope and timing of the plan.
On Saturday, as state and local officials in several jurisdictions denounced the plan — and their police departments eschewed cooperation — former ICE director Tom Homan and anonymous senior officials accused acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan of leaking details of the operation to get the White House to call it off.
But officials at several Homeland Security agencies had privately expressed concern all week that the operation had been fatally compromised by Trump’s announcement that the roundups would begin “next week.”
His announcement followed weeks of public statements by newly installed acting ICE chief Mark Morgan that his agency was preparing to arrest thousands of families in major U.S. cities who have failed to comply with deportation orders that were fast-tracked through an expedited Justice Department court docket.
Up to 1,000 detention beds had been set aside at a federal family detention center in Dilley, Tex., for the raids, according to the DHS official.
The Washington Post began receiving anonymous tips with details of the operation two days after the president’s tweet, and by the end of the week, those plans were circulating among officials at multiple agencies, as well as legislative staffers and legal-aid organizations for immigrants.
Homan, whom Trump has courted to serve as a “border czar,” said Sunday that the president should move forward with the raids in two weeks if they do not reach a deal with Democrats.
“I think if the president, if he doesn’t get something meaningful, I think ICE is going to do it and they should do it,” Homan said.