Trump announces horrifying plan for 'removing the millions of illegal aliens'
Late Monday night, President Donald Trump tweeted out a vague but troubling pair of tweets indicating the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is planning on undertaking a massive round of raids next week:
Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way… https://t.co/Y0el2Ij8dU— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1560820839.0
....long before they get to our Southern Border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement. The onl… https://t.co/lfgnHmLhC3— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1560820839.0
Because it's Trump, it's not exactly clear what he was referring to. Many observers noted that the announcement was reminiscent of the "deportation force" idea Trump had endorsed during the campaign.
Actually deporting millions of people would be of course extremely resource intensive and destructive, and there's no indication the administration is actually ramping up for a rapid removal on that scale any time soon. But Nick Miroff, an immigration reporter for the Washington Post, said Trump was referring to a plan that had previously been reported to arrest thousands of families with deportation orders.
The Post had reported of that plan in May:
According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president’s failed “zero tolerance” prosecution push in early 2018. The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants — including families with children.
The sprawling operation included an effort to fast-track immigration court cases, allowing the government to obtain deportation orders against those who did not show for their hearings — officials said 90 percent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence. The subsequent arrests would have required coordinated raids against parents with children in their homes and neighborhoods.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations branch had an initial target list of 2,500 adults and children, but the plan, which remains under consideration, was viewed as a first step toward arresting as many as 10,000 migrants. The vast majority of families who have crossed the border in the past 18 months seeking asylum remain in the country, awaiting a court date or in defiance of deportation orders.
Homeland Security officials, including Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, reportedly stopped the plan because they thought it would be an inefficient use of force with a risk of backfiring. But Trump has ousted much of the leadership at DHS and asserted control over the department, and it now appears opposition to the plan has dissipated.
While mass removal of 10,000 immigrants would be much smaller than the "millions" Trump suggested in his tweet, it's still a monstrous plan that could, through carelessness, dangerous incentives, and poor planning, go disastrously wrong. But even if we don't assume the worst case scenario or reckless implementation, it would likely sweep up many people with a legal right to be in the country, create widespread trauma, rip apart families, and inflict more suffering on already vulnerable marginalized people. It's a cruel plot that would do nothing to increase public safety — the only purpose is to appeal to the anti-immigrant parts of Trump's base.
Miroff noted on Twitter: "Usually major operations of this sort are considered 'law enforcement sensitive' and a closely-held secret, not telegraphed by the president." But this just shows that Trump has no real interest in following the law or taking care to conduct an orderly process — he likes theatrical tactics that make him seem tough, and he doesn't care about who gets hurt along the way.