United States President Donald Trump said last week that immigration officials would be undertaking a major operation against illegal migrants. The operation, which was to have begun Sunday, aimed to arrest and deport over 2,000 undocumented immigrants in 10 major American cities over a couple of days.
Major news organisations such as Reuters and CNN reported that the raids did not materialise. President Trump, however, described the operation as having been “very successful” on Monday.
The weekend’s developments marked the second time since June that President Trump pre-announced a raid on undocumented migrants, but which was subsequently reported to have failed to take off.
The ICE raids
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ‘ICE’, a wing of the US Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with carrying out the operation. According to the ICE website, the agency was created in 2003, and with a budget of around $6 billion has over 20,000 personnel in the United States and abroad.
It was reported that Trump’s announcement of the date the raids would begin, gave a clear two days’ warning to undocumented migrants, which made the ICE’s job tougher and also exposed its agents to avoidable vulnerabilities.
Trump and illegal migration
Illegal immigration is an issue that the US has been grappling with for decades, and over 10 million undocumented migrants are currently known to be residing in the country. Many have lived in the US for several years and now have American-born children.
Cracking down on illegal migration is long-standing electoral rhetoric that has been forcefully echoed by Donald Trump ever since he began campaigning for the 2016 presidential polls. The leader’s ultra-right stance on several issues has been a hit with his voter base.
On a podcast, a commentator for The Economist said that even a complete failure of the raids to take-off would not hurt Trump’s popularity, as his base would continue to sympathise with him.
The Trump administration’s policy of dealing with illegal migrants has been criticised for enacting harsh measures such as separating children from migrant families and holding them at facilities away from parents.
Tirade against Democrats
Over the same weekend that the raids were supposed to begin, Trump on Twitter railed against political opponents of his line on illegal immigration. Trump’s comments were described as racist and invited criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Theresa May of the UK.
Trump has often exhorted the Democratic Party to assist his administration in passing legislation on matters such as immigration and asylum law. Democrats have fiercely resisted these efforts in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the US Congress where they have a majority.