NEW YORK (AFP) – Thousands of undocumented immigrants waited in uncertainty last Sunday, fearful of nationwide raids that United States (US) President Donald Trump said would lead to a wave of expulsions.
Even as news media said the raids were underway, Trump added to the divisive debate on migration, suggesting on Twitter that some Democratic women Congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of origin.
Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were expected to conduct raids in at least 10 major cities, with plans to arrest about 2,000 undocumented migrants who entered the US recently.
ICE’s Acting Director Matthew Albence would not confirm any operational details last Sunday but defended the need for the raids.
“We are doing targetted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered to be removed by an immigration judge,” he told Fox News Sunday.
“We are merely executing those judges’ orders.”
The scope of the operation appears far more modest than the “millions” Trump had promised would be detained and expelled when he first mentioned the raids last month.
But that has not eased the anguish felt by those who might be targetted.
Adding to their concerns were reports that ICE agents are prepared to scoop up not just those named in removal orders but also other undocumented migrants whom agents may come upon incidentally.
That, potentially, could include some migrants who have been in the country for years, with homes, jobs and children who are US citizens.
Local and state officials have called on the federal government to show restraint in the raids. Several accused Trump of using the operation mainly for political gain. “This uncertainty, this fear, is wreaking havoc,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on CNN.
“It’s traumatising people.”