(EDITOR’S NOTE, 6/21/19, 5:33 PM ET: This article was amended to include a tweet from Bernie Sanders educating undocumented immigrants about their rights if confronted by ICE.)
Following the president’s tweet on Monday promising to remove millions of undocumented immigrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be targeting 2,000 families in ten cities for removal.
The cities in question are Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, New Orleans and San Francisco.
In a tweet from his official senate account, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), a 2020 presidential candidate, sent out a set of guidelines from the American Civil Liberties Union telling immigrants what to do if confronted by ICE agents. The tweet, and the graphic, was in both English and Spanish:
If ICE agents show up at your door, know your rights.
Si agentes del ICE llegan a tu puerta, conoce tus derechos. pic.twitter.com/m3UlUjoR4B
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 21, 2019
In February, the targeted families received letters saying a judge had ordered their removal in absentia and asking them to self-report to ICE for deportation. The targeting of families with court-ordered removals is, according to a Trump administration official, intended to “send a message” of deterrence to those seeking to enter the United States.
This focus follows a shift in how the American immigration system handled its priorities for deportation. Previously, the limited resources that exist to handle undocumented immigrants were applied selectively. Trump administration policy, however, changed all that.
“Effective immediately, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties,” reads an ICE memo from February.
This flattening of priorities breaks with the entire history of the immigration system, where prosecutorial discretion was used to determine who needed to be removed immediately and who could be placed on the back burner. With limited resources, DHS needs the ability to leave in America families with ties in their communities, who don’t pose any threat. This policy allowed resources to be used in more precise ways.
In fact, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had, according to reports, rejected this specific plan because the policy of the Department was to prioritize criminals, rather than families. The current Acting Homeland Security Secretary, Mark Morgan, disagrees.
“If you’re here illegally, then you should be removed,” Morgan told reporters. “And in this case, that includes families.”
This may be reflective of the way President Trump uses the position of “acting” head of a department to limit pushback from cabinet secretaries.
But Morgan was also quick to separate himself from Nielsen on another issue, insisting that this targeting of families will not result in a continuance of the policy of family separation, which garnered Nielsen harsh criticism.
Sunday’s operation will be the culmination of months of effort and will not be an easy experience for anyone involved.
“You go to a home that’s a family and maybe the father is present, but the mother is not or vice versa. People are in medical care. Other members of the family may be in legal status,” a former ICE official told CNN. “There’s a lot of stuff to consider in a situation like this.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.