Federal authorities were conducting raids Sunday in major cities nationwide aimed at rounding up for deportation about 2,000 illegal immigrants already ordered out of the country, according to a senior government official.
“This is their job every day,” said US Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, referring to “compassionate, loyal” Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, to CNN.
On Sunday, that meant scheduled sweeping raids through immigrant enclaves in nine of America’s biggest cities: New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco.
Their goal, a senior government official told CNN, was to apprehend about 2,000 illegal immigrants who had failed to comply with previous court orders to report to ICE for deportation.
“They’re not undocumented,” said Cuccinelli of those on the list. “They’ve got a court order on a piece of paper — a federal order — that says they’ve gotten due process.”
Those 2,000 people are among roughly 1 million people with removal orders, Cuccinelli said, although he stressed that ICE’s priority still remains the deportation of dangerous criminals.
He refused to guarantee that children wouldn’t be separated from their parents as the raids unfolded.
“That would be an operational detail that I’m not going to comment on,” he said. “There are a million people, including families, with removal orders. The priority remains for ICE to get at criminals, violent criminals, aggravated felons, all those sorts of things, just as it was in the Obama administration.”
But at least in New York, the raids, long feared in immigrant communities, appeared to fizzle Sunday.
“We’ve followed up on every report today and so far have no confirmed ICE activity,” tweeted Mayor Bill de Blasio just before 3:30 p.m.
The seemingly quiet day came after ICE started the raids early Saturday, when they visited three buildings in Harlem and Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood but left empty-handed.
“My son sleeps in this room right here, so he saw them through the window,” said Toboca Del Carmen, whose building on 56th Street in Sunset Park was raided around 6:45 a.m. Saturday. “Once he saw them, he told us who it was, and we didn’t open.
“They said they were going to return today, but they haven’t, and let’s hope they don’t come back,” she said, adding that the agents seemed primarily to be looking for two Guatemalan men who live on the building’s fourth floor.
Citing “law-enforcement sensitivities,” ICE in a statement declined to reveal details of the sweep, including how many total people had been apprehended.