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President Donald Trump has called off an immigration raid targeting at least 2,000 asylum-seeking families — for now.
Trump reportedly postponed the operation after talking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday, just one day before the arrests were scheduled to begin. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been gearing up to arrest migrants in at least 10 cities who had already been issued deportation orders by a federal judge, sources told the Washington Post Friday.
But the operation hasn’t been called off for good. On Twitter, the same place where he first announced the raids, Trump gave Congress an ultimatum: agree on an asylum deal in two weeks, or the arrests are back on.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted on a bipartisan $4.6 billion emergency funding bill last week that attempts to address the influx of migrants arriving at the border by providing additional funding to the Department of Homeland Security. The text includes $2.9 billion in funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with taking care of unaccompanied migrant children until they can be released to a family member or another sponsor.
Earlier this month, the agency said it was dangerously close to running out of funds and would be slashing funding for non-essential services, including education and recreation, in its shelters as a result.
The bill would also allocate more than $1 billion to Customs and Border Protection and $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as funding for 30 more teams of immigration judges. The language, however, forbids the Trump administration from using that money for purposes other than addressing the asylum surge, like building a border wall or adding more ICE beds.
Despite bipartisan support for the Senate bill, some Democrats in the House aren’t on board. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have threatened not to vote for the Senate bill, the New York Times reported. Other House Democrats have expressed concerns about funding immigration agencies without ensuring additional oversight. Last week, immigration attorneys told reporters that hundreds of children had been kept in freezing, overcrowded Border Patrol processing stations for weeks.
Competition in the House
Instead of signing on to the Senate bill, House Democrats are working on a bill of their own. In a statement released Sunday, Pelosi said the House bill would address funding concerns while also allocating money for “urgently-needed humanitarian assistance for families, including funding for food, shelter, clothing, medical care and legal assistance.”
“The legislation protects families,” Pelosi said. “It does not fund the Administration’s failed mass detention policy, but, instead, funds effective, humane alternatives to detention with a proven track record of success.”
Like the Senate bill, the House version would provide emergency funds for DHS agencies, though less money to ICE. The text also outlines protections for migrant children in government custody. But once again, selling certain members of the Hispanic Caucus on the bill may be hard, though members of the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses have said both groups will end up backing the bill.
If legislators can’t agree on a deal, the ICE raids will be back on. Immigrant communities have already begun preparing for the worst, the Washington Post reported. Civil rights groups have been conducting know-your-rights trainings, while churches have offered to provide sanctuary to those who fear deportation.
And even though this particular operation is postponed, ICE is still carrying out other arrests. An anonymous DHS official told the Post that another operation, called Cross Creek, has been going on for several weeks and hasn’t been put on hold. That operation targets immigrants with criminal convictions and has led to a few hundred arrests, according to the Post’s report.
This weekend’s postponed raids were supposed to target a different group: approximately 2,000 asylum-seekers who had recently been issued final removal orders. Many of those families, part of a larger groups of about 13,000, had their cases expedited through a program called the “rocket docket.” The vast majority of those families, at 85%, had their removal orders issued in-absentia, meaning that they hadn’t shown up to court.
But a recent study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University found that many families with ongoing asylum cases, particularly those whose cases are expedited, had never received details on the date or time of their hearings. If that was the case for the 2,000 families ICE was supposed to begin arresting this weekend, it’s possible that many may not know they’ve been issued deportation orders in the first place.
Cover image: President Donald Trump points to a reporter as he makes remarks to the press as he departs the White House, Washington, DC, for a weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Credit: Mike Theiler / Pool via CNP | usage worldwide Photo by: Mike Theiler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images