By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) – Immigrant families and their defenders were on standby Sunday for mass deportation arrests across the United States threatened by President Donald Trump, but by early afternoon there were no signs of a nationwide operation.
Trump said on Friday that a wave of arrests of immigrants facing deportation would start over the weekend. The multi-day operation was expected to target around 2,000 people in about 10 cities who have been ordered deported by an immigration judge but have yet to leave the country.
But as immigrants stayed inside their homes and lawyers stood by to provide free legal aid, there were no reports of large enforcement operations.
“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence told Fox News when asked for an update.
Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large cities such as Atlanta and Miami that her civil rights organisation monitors.
Nor were there reports of mass arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to help people taken to the country’s largest family detention centre in Dilley, Texas.
“Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not,” said Bauer, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.
Mayors of large U.S. cities, nearly all Democrats, have said their law enforcement agencies will not cooperate with ICE on deportations.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city had three “confirmed situations involving ICE operations” on Saturday.
“In no case was it reported to us that the agent found the individual they were looking for to make any arrests,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that so far there had been no confirmed ICE activity on Sunday.
An ICE spokeswoman declined to comment on operations, citing the safety of the agency’s personnel.
Democratic officials and migrant activists have told immigrants they have the right not to open their doors to ICE agents, unless presented with a warrant signed by a judge.
The threatened arrests come after migrant apprehensions hit a 13-year high in May at the southwest border, many of them Central Americans fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries.
The Trump administration faces widespread criticism for housing immigrants in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions and there are concerns about migrant children being separated from adults by U.S. authorities.
GRAPHIC-Trump immigration enforcement lags behind Obama – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/USA-IMMIGRATION/0H001PBKB5E8/index.html
(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien)