Immigration and Customs Enforcement is pressing forward to arrest and deport families with court-ordered removals in 10 cities beginning Sunday, according to a senior immigration official, after President Donald Trump's tweet revealing an operation was imminent.
"If you're here illegally, then you should be removed," acting head of ICE Mark Morgan told reporters Wednesday during a call prompted by the President's tweet. "And in this case, that includes families."
A senior administration official said the operation had been planned for some time, but said the tweet had put the operation at the forefront.
"Certainly, the President's tweet helped prioritize things for people," the official said, adding that there had been internal debate about timing amid negotiations with Congress on additional funding and the upcoming 2020 budget.
The official added that "there has been an effort to communicate what is likely to happen, without saying specifically when and where," contrary to the "zero tolerance" policy which was done without much advance notice to the media or Capitol Hill.
Field agents at local field offices are receiving briefings and training, according to a senior immigration official. There are also preparations being put in place for mixed-immigration status families: for example, if a parent is undocumented, but has a US citizen child.
"Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, the agency will not offer specific details related to ongoing enforcement operations before the conclusion of those actions," ICE said in a statement Friday.
Officials have previously raised concerns about the operation being perceived as separating families again, though Morgan said Wednesday, "Our goal is not to separate families."
The intent, Morgan said, is to deter migrants from coming to the US-Mexico border, and the operation is expected to include families who are on an expedited court docket.
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