The Trump administration reportedly created a secret plan to carry out mass arrests of thousands of migrants in 10 major U.S. cities — including New York, Chicago and LA — in an apparent shock-and-awe operation targeting families that had recently entered the country.
The details of the proposed operation were laid out by the Washington Post in an exclusive report on Tuesday. The Post reported that the plan was conceived in September 2018 and discussed a few times in the ensuing months, and that then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and then-acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello both challenged it "in the weeks" leading up to their ouster, in April.
The plan would’ve fast-tracked immigration court cases and then allowed the government to arrest and deport migrants who didn’t show up to their hearings, the Post said, citing seven current and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials. The operation was intended as a show of force, and there would’ve been arrests and coordinated raids at homes with parents and children.
Vitiello and Nielsen halted the plan — mostly over “logistical and operational” concerns of arresting thousands of migrants and not ethical issues — while senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence were “especially supportive” of the idea, according to the Post report.
“There was concern that it was being hastily put together, would be ineffective and might actually backfire by misdirecting resources away from critical border emergency response operations,” an anonymous DHS official told the Post.
The planned raids targeted 2,500 adults and children, and was a first step toward 10,000 total arrests.
The Post’s report says that the plan remains in consideration, with the apparent opponents of the mass arrests now gone from the administration. President Trump killed the nomination of Vitiello to become the permanent director of ICE, saying he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction. Days later, Nielsen resigned as a part of purge from Trump aimed at taking an even harder-line approach to immigration. Trump has reportedly been angry about the number of border crossings, which he apparently uses as a measure for how his immigration policies are working.
Recent figures show that migrants, primarily Guatemalan and Honduran families, have continued to rush to the border. Border Patrol officials reported last week that the number of apprehensions at the border in April surpassed 100,000 for the second straight month. The border-apprehension numbers hadn't been that high since 2007. The majority of the apprehensions were families.
Cover Image: Senior Advisor for Policy Stephen Miller listens during a roundtable discussion on border security and safe communities, January 11, 2019 at the White House. (Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)