President Donald Trump may have preempted the Department of Homeland Security when he abruptly announced last night that ICE would begin arresting “millions of illegal aliens” sometime “next week,” but despite his well-documented history of lies and empty threats, it so far seems like he’s not bluffing.
Although details on the full scope and nature of the president’s promised arrests have not been made public, a number of administration officials confirmed to multiple news outlets that ICE will indeed be stepping up its immigration sweeps in the near future, with one senior official describing the plans as being on a “different scale” than the agency’s current actions.
Speaking with CNN’s Jim Acosta, an administration figure suggested the raids would target undocumented families as a unit as part of “a broad section of things” the Department of Homeland Security has planned.
Another official claimed to Fox News that the sweeps would also target undocumented immigrants who have already received final deportation orders.
“Countless illegal aliens not only violate our borders but then break the law all over again by skipping their court hearings and absconding from federal proceedings. These runaway aliens lodge phony asylum claims only to be no-shows at court and are ordered removed in absentia,” the official said.
“These judicial removal orders were secured at great time and expense, and yet illegal aliens not only refuse to appear in court, they often obtain fraudulent identities, collect federal welfare, and illegally work in the United States,” they continued. “Enforcing these final judicial orders is a top priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement”
Other officials cast doubt on the imminence—but not the reality—of the president’s threat.
Speaking with multiple outlets, administration figures expressed surprise at the president’s announcement, saying they were given no warning that Trump planned to broadcast their plans for an operation many claimed was not, as the president insisted, scheduled for “next week.”
It also remains an open question as to whether DHS has the operational capacity to imminently deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants, as Trump threatened on Twitter. As the Washington Post noted, the sort of sweeping nationwide raids and deportation proceedings described by the president would require a staggering amount of manpower and planning for an department already stretched thin by Trump’s build up of troops along the U.S.-Mexico border.