President Trump recently cleaned house at the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement so he could take a more aggressive approach to immigration. He revealed part of this approach on Monday night, tweeting that next week ICE “will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
….long before they get to our Southern Border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement. The only ones who won’t do anything are the Democrats in Congress. They must vote to get rid of the loopholes, and fix asylum! If so, Border Crisis will end quickly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
According to the Washington Post, Trump forced Kirsten Nielsen to resign as DSH secretary and rescinded the nomination of Ron Vitiello to become the new ICE director in April in part because of their hesitancy to move forward with the plan the president announced on Monday. Last year, the Justice Department processed the deportation orders of thousands of undocumented families, but Nielsen and Vitiello were concerned about the complications that could arise from actually removing them from the United States en masse. So Trump replaced them.
Trump, his top immigration adviser Stephen Miller, and other supporters of the plan, which will largely affect families, reportedly want to send a message to any migrants considering crossing the border. Deterrence was also the driving force behind the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border. The mass arrests the president says will begin next week could result in the splitting up of thousands of families who have been living in the United States for years, if not decades.
The Post paints a grim picture of what the operation could look like: “Should adults be arrested without their children because they are at school, day care, summer camp or a friend’s house, it is possible parents could be deported while their children are left behind.”
The curious thing about the president’s tweets Monday night is that deportation raids typically aren’t announced ahead of time, as the element of surprise is often crucial. ICE officials were reportedly unaware that Trump planned to tweet about the arrests and, according to a tweet by Nick Miroff, who co-authored the story for the Post, the agency was “stunned” that Trump announced the plan on Twitter.
So tight-lipped is the administration about ICE’s raids that, in 2018, Trump threatened Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf with criminal charges for revealing that a deportation order was in the works. “I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland, California,” the president told reporters in the White House. “She advises thousands of people to get out of here, the law enforcement’s coming. You worked on that long and hard and you got there and there were very few people there. To me that’s obstruction of justice.”
Oakland's mayor, Libby Schaaf, reportedly tipped off immigrant communities to an ICE sweep. Trump appeared to threaten that he would have his Justice Department investigate her for obstruction of justice. pic.twitter.com/qdxQUsYalk
— VICE News (@vicenews) May 16, 2018
Thomas Homan, then the deputy director of ICE, also was not pleased with Schaaf’s warning, noting that her “decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased [the safety] risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens.”
So why would Trump jump the gun with the news about next week’s big raid, thus compromising the deportation plan and putting the safety of ICE agents at risk? Look no further than his tweet Tuesday morning — as well as several others from the past few days — teasing his big rally in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday night, during which he will officially relaunch his re-election campaign. Announcing a big crackdown on undocumented immigrants is a pretty juicy piece of red meat for Trump to throw to his supporters. The president apparently couldn’t resist.