In a tweet on Monday night, President Trump claimed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will begin a wave of mass arrests starting “next week.”
Trump, who routinely announces major changes in policy without letting his staff in on the plan, reportedly did not inform ICE of the move: ICE officials said Monday night “that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter,” according to the Washington Post. As the paper reports, it’s not traditionally wise to broadcast such a move:
Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets … Executing a large-scale operation of the type under discussion requires hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of U.S. agents and supporting law enforcement personnel, as well as weeks of intelligence gathering and planning to verify addresses and locations of individuals targeted for arrest.
Trump’s tweet is made even odder by an incident last year in which he and ICE officials threatened Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf for warning migrants about a raid, claiming that she may have obstructed justice and endangered the safety of the agents involved. On Monday, Schaaf responded to Trump on Twitter: “If you continue to threaten, target and terrorize families in my community . . . and if we receive credible information . . . you already know what our values are in Oakland — and we will unapologetically stand up for those values.”
Trump’s claims about the current ability of ICE to handle “millions” of arrests may also be in conflict with reality. As the Post reports, the claim runs contrary to “the agency’s staffing and budgetary challenges. ICE arrests in the U.S. interior have been declining in recent months because so many agents are busy managing the record surge of migrant families across the southern border with Mexico.” Mark Morgan, the acting director of the agency, has only been in the role for three weeks.
As part of his short tenure, Morgan has said that he intends to pursue families with deportation orders. “Our next challenge is going to be interior enforcement,” Morgan said on June 4. “That will include families,” who will be treated “with compassion and humanity.” But that’s a hard promise to make — and one that former acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expressed concerns about, leading, in part, to their ouster, according to the Post. It’s easy to understand their hesitancy, as some parents in migrant households have deportation orders, while their children do not. As the Post states, “Should adults be arrested without their children because they are at school, day care, summer camp or at a friend’s house, it is possible parents could be deported while their children are left behind.”