WASHINGTON - Democrats in the US Congress demanded Thursday that President Donald Trump protect families and children ahead of expected immigration raids this weekend.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will launch sweeping deportation operations on Sunday as the administration expands its crackdown on undocumented immigrants, the New York Times reported.
ICE has obtained court orders for the removal of about one million undocumented migrants, according to a senior administration official, but the initial raids will target some 2,000 across at least 10 cities, the Times said.
Democrats lashed out at the plans, saying they threaten people who have lived in the United States for many years and built families that include US citizens.
House leader Nancy Pelosi called the ICE plan "heartless" and said Sundays are when many Hispanic immigrant families are in church.
"These families are hardworking members of our communities and our country. This brutal action will terrorize children and tear families apart," she told reporters.
"Many of these families are mixed-status families," she added, referring to families who include members in the United States legally and illegally, such as migrants with children born inside the country.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Wednesday that ICE has nowhere near the resources needed to pursue the full one million cases.
"They are absolutely going to happen," he said of the raids, however.
MIGRANTS STILL ARRIVING AT HIGH RATE
The removal orders can be issued on the completion of court cases involving the migrants, whether for minor civil infractions or their own citizenship or asylum cases.
Fearing arrest and deportation, migrants often don't show up for cases and judges summarily rule against them.
Senior Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer warned the Trump administration that ICE should not split families with young children if it carries out the raids.
"Stop separating children from their families. Tell your agencies, do not separate a single child from their parents," he said.
ICE hasn't commented on the raids, which would come with Trump seeking to demonstrate toughness on immigration amid a still-strong influx of migrants across the border with Mexico.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said 104,344 migrants were detained after crossing the border in June, down 28 percent from May's 13-year record high but still an extremely high figure, some 60,000 more than the same month last year.
While migrant flows usually ebb in the hot summer, DHS said initiatives with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where most of the migrants come from, and a joint crackdown with Mexico, whose territory most must transit, had contributed to the downturn.
© Agence France-Presse