“This is a political act by this president, he’s politicized a United States government agency to help him win re-election”, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The United States authorities launched small-scale operations seeking to arrest undocumented immigrants over the weekend in an apparent start to President Donald Trump’s vow to launch mass deportation round-ups across the country.
The operation, which Trump revealed on Twitter last month, was expected to target hundreds of recently arrived families in about 10 cities who had been ordered deported by an immigration judge.
“It starts on Sunday, and they're going to take people out, and they're going to bring them back to their countries, or they're going to take criminals out—put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from,” Trump tweeted Friday.
The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries, with many seeking asylum in the United States.
Immigrants and their advocates were bracing for mass arrests, but by Sunday night there were only reports of low-profile operations in a few cities.
“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matt Albence told Fox News when asked for an update.
Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large Southern cities such as Atlanta.
There also were no reports of arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to give legal advice at the country’s largest family migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas.
“Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not,” said Bauer, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were three ICE operations in his city Saturday, with no reported arrests. He said there was no ICE activity in New York Sunday.
“This is a political act by this president, he’s politicized a United States government agency to help him win re-election,” said de Blasio, a Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential race.
The Miami-based Florida Immigrant Coalition said immigrants were sheltering at home after ICE agents were seen near the city’s international airport. No arrests were reported.
“They’ve been stocking up on groceries and making plans to stay in their homes with the lights off and the blinds down,” the group posted on Facebook. “Some are staying home from work.”
“While we haven’t heard of widespread sweeps, none of our communities should have to live in fear that parents won’t come home from work, or kids won’t return from school,” said Lauren Weiner, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued this week to stop the arrests going ahead.