US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are planning to conduct a multiday raid targeting undocumented immigrant families across the country beginning this weekend, according to sources close to the administration.
The roundup is expected to begin Sunday in several cities across the country, including Los Angeles, targeting families who have been issued final removal orders after not appearing in court. The enforcement action comes during a period in which the administration has called for additional funding to help add resources to handle the record number of immigrant families crossing the border this year.
In recent days, attorneys and civil rights organizations have distributed notices that they would be prepared to help immigrants caught up in any operation and reminded people that they are not legally required to open the door to ICE officers.
Earlier this week, Mark Morgan, acting ICE director, signaled that the agency would conduct a raid on immigrants who are in the country without authorization. In a call with reporters, Morgan focused on a group of around 2,000 individuals who were part of an expedited docket at immigration courts reserved for family units who have recently arrived. Across the country, 10 immigration courts, in cities like San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Baltimore, and Los Angeles, have quick dockets for immigrant families.
The 2,000 individuals, Morgan said, had been ordered removed “in absentia” — without appearing in court — and had been notified to present themselves at ICE offices to facilitate a compassionate removal. These individuals, Morgan argued, had been given an adequate level of due process and a chance to make their case in court. Without officers targeting and removing them, immigrant families from Central America would continue to come without any fear of consequences.
Some Department of Justice officials with knowledge of the expedited family docket raised concerns about the way the Trump administration has described immigrants who have been ordered deported “in absentia.”
“Scheduling these cases too rapidly increases the in absentia rates, as people don’t have time to find help from pro bono organizations or attorneys and are fearful of appearing alone,” said one Justice Department official. “It also increases the possibility of errors on notice.”
The official noted a high number of immigrants with absentia removal orders at locations near the border, like Houston, which are usually not final destinations.
“It’s a gross generalization,” another DOJ official said. “There are a lot of reasons why someone might miss a hearing. Notice issues, ‘exceptional circumstances,’ etc. To say that people are just skipping out is not appropriate.”
But within ICE, there has been frustration among some that immigration officers had been put in a difficult position.
“What’s the point of spending millions of dollars on the immigration court system if their orders are then ignored,” an ICE official who was not authorized to speak to the media said. “There are consequences for actions taken, whether bad or good. These people decided not to comply with what was directed. These are the consequences.”
The official added that “they have put their family in this position and forced the agency to take action. But most people won’t see it that way and will blame the officers who are enforcing the laws implemented by Congress. This is fixable, but no politician wants to compromise in order not to upset the extremes of their party.”
Elsewhere, an ongoing operation not specifically targeting families, which includes those with final removal orders and criminal backgrounds, is expected to continue. A worksite enforcement operation is planned as well, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
In any operation, ICE officials gather data, including one's address, last place of employment, and other details, and begin surveillance to determine the patterns of immigrants suspected of being in the country without authorization. Often, individuals on a target list are no longer living at their last known address or ICE officers are unable to make the arrest. Under the Trump administration, ICE officers have been told not to exempt any group of undocumented immigrants, which can lead to what is known as "collateral arrests.”
Within the agency, some ICE officials were concerned Trump’s tweet last week had tipped off the operation, one source with knowledge of internal agency discussions said. White House adviser Stephen Miller has been in close contact with ICE officials in the run-up to the raid, according to the source. Immigration officials were also concerned about the limited detention space the agency has in preparation for the operation, with just 800 empty beds available at the agency’s family detention centers.
Matt Albence, deputy director of ICE, confirmed to congressional staffers earlier this week that a forthcoming raid would target families, at least in part. According to those with knowledge of the call, he told Capitol Hill officials that ICE officers are parents too, and will be sensitive.