U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are expected to launch a nationwide operation Sunday aimed at arresting immigrants in the country who are facing deportation.
The campaign, confirmed Friday by President Donald Trump, was expected to focus on hundreds of families in cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
ICE agents will target mostly Central Americans who are on an "accelerated docket" of immigration court cases, according to ICE acting Director Matthew Albence.
The Republican president's announcement was expected to be well-received by citizens who voted for him because of his campaign promise to crack down on migrants. Democrats have denounced the operation, declaring it is inhumane to target families.
Most of the city mayors, mostly Democrats, have restated their policies of not cooperating with ICE officials on deportations and also have publicized telephone help lines people can call to gain an understanding of their rights. Additionally, Democratic lawmakers and others have been informing immigrants of their rights and advising them not to open their doors for ICE unless the agents show a court-ordered warrant, and not to speak or sign anything without speaking to a lawyer.
Trump has said on Twitter that his agents intend to arrest millions of immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally, while other administration officials have said about 2,000 people will be targeted.
Family separations possible
Albence said ICE agents would go after entire families who have been ordered to leave the country and that some families might be separated if some members are in the country without proper documentation.
Trump made the unusual move of announcing the raids ahead of time and said Friday that he was not concerned the early notice could help some of the targeted immigrants evade arrest.
Trump's confirmation of the raids came amid widespread criticism of the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions detained immigrants are allegedly residing in at facilities along the southwestern U.S. border. There also has been considerable criticism of the separation of children from adults by U.S. border officials.