In a matter of days, President Donald Trump promised on Twitter to deport millions of people, then postponed his initial plan to conduct nationwide raids, saying he was giving time for Democrats and Republicans to find a solution for the southern border. "If not, Deportations start!" Trump tweeted. Now, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation has been scheduled for Sunday and, according to the New York Times, it will target 2,000 people with final orders of deportation across at least 10 major cities.
In early June, Mark Morgan, acting director of ICE, provided some insight on the agency's arrests plan. Instead of focusing on criminals or potential threats to national security, agents would specifically take action against families who had crossed the border recently and immigrants ordered to be deported for missing court dates. The plan, as reported by the Washington Post, had previously been challenged by former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and former acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello—both of whom have since resigned—over fears of a lack of preparation for its implementation and the potential for public outcry.
"We will be going after individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation," Morgan told reporters. "That will include families."
But a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday trying to stop the raids argues that many families and children ordered removed in absentia never received a notice to appear in court because of the government's flawed system. In some cases, the complaint says, the government mailed notices to wrong addresses or without a date or time for the hearing. "Thousands of individuals could be deported without ever receiving a fair opportunity to appear before a judge," the plaintiffs claim.
In a statement, attorney Brad Phillips called the Trump administration plan unjust and inhumane, arguing that sending families and children seeking refuge back to their home countries without the chance to see a judge as provided by law is "fundamentally at odds with what this nation stands for."
Families and children have been ordered deported in absentia, often in violation of due process, even before Trump, however. During its early years, the Obama administration was criticized for expediting such cases as part of the so-called "rocket dockets" in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors coming to the border.
This week, news of the planned raid created an atmosphere of apprehension among immigrant communities, prompting lawyers, advocates, and even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–New York) to inform immigrants of their rights in case agents appear on their doorstep. One of the biggest concerns is that the operation will lead to the "collateral arrest" of immigrants who were not initially targets.