ATLANTA — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are expected to begin a mass roundup of families facing deportation in as many as 10 major US cities on Sunday, including Atlanta.
The raids are anticipated to begin as pre-dawn operations in the cities at the direction of President Donald Trump in Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City and San Francisco.
On Monday, the president tweeted that ICE would "begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way in the United States."
Federal reports quoted by the Washington Post and the Miami Herald late Friday, said that up to 2,000 people would be targeted during the initial stages of the operation.
According to the Washington Post, ICE spokeswoman Carol Danko had declined to discuss the operation, only saying that "as a law enforcement agency, ICE's mission is to uphold the rule of law; operations targeting violators of immigration laws are not only standard practice, but within the statutory authority prescribed by Congress."
The Miami Herald says that among those who will be initially targeted by this weekend's operation will be minors who came into the US without their parents and have since turned 18, people who were ordered removed in absentia and people who missed a court hearing and did not respond to letters mailed to their homes by the Justice Department.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was not pleased with how the Trump Administration was proceeding with its plans for the ICE raids.
"This is a siege on immigrant families and local municipalities by the federal government. The White House should be ashamed for the depths they are willing to sink to—including the separation of families and imprisonment of children—for what appears to be a reelection stunt," Bottoms said in a statement to 11Alive News on Saturday. "This cruel policy is not the solution to a broken immigration system. Only good faith bipartisan efforts will fix the system and ensure our country lives up to its own highest values and ideals."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday that her city's police department would not participate in the ICE roundup.
In a statement released Friday, Lightfoot says she has directed the Chicago Police Department to terminate ICE access to its databases related to federal immigration enforcement activities. She says Superintendent Eddie Johnson confirms the order has been carried out.
Lightfoot said she has spoken to ICE officials in Chicago and voiced her objection to any roundup of migrant families.
In her statement, Lightfoot said Chicago "will always be a welcoming city and a champion for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement saying that L.A. law enforcement "will never participate" in such raids, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
While officials in Chicago and Los Angeles are on record as indicating that their law enforcement would not be participating, 11Alive News has yet to hear from Atlanta Police regarding an official stance on whether or not they would help with the ICE roundup.
Here are some questions and answers about how ICE operates:
WHAT THEY CAN DO
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is in charge of arresting and deporting immigrants who lack legal status.
One common method of finding and arresting people who are known to be in the country illegally is agreements between ICE and local jails around the country to hold people arrested on crimes past their release date so that ICE can look into their status. These are known as "detainers," but they've become increasingly unpopular among local governments, many who say they risk legal action and that they shouldn't be doing the work of federal authorities.
The agency also arrests people the old-fashioned way, by tracking people down and showing up at their homes or workplaces.
But the amount of resources and staff limit their ability to make multiple large-scale arrests at a time.
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE
Last fiscal year, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations unit arrested over 158,500 immigrants in the country illegally, an 11% increase over the prior year and the highest number since 2014. The agency says 66% of those arrested are convicted criminals.
Last month, ICE officers arrested 900 people during a three-week sting in California.
The agency announced last week that it arrested 140 people, including 45 in Illinois, during a sting in the Midwest that lasted five days.
Although ICE arrests people a variety of ways, it's the larger enforcement operations such as a workplace sting that draw the most attention.
In Texas, ICE'S Homeland Security Investigations unit, which enforces immigration laws at workplaces, arrested 280 employees at a company in Allen, Texas, in April, saying it was their biggest worksite operation in a decade.
"I think what people forget is these operations go on on a regular basis," said Art Acevedo, the police chief in Houston, one of the cities believed to be targeted in an upcoming sweep.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
Authorities typically have a list of people they are targeting in any operation. They visit a targeted person's known addresses, usually a home or workplace, and seek to detain that person. They may ask family members, neighbors, co-workers, or managers about the whereabouts of the person they want to arrest.
Authorities typically obtain an administrative warrant giving them permission to detain a person for violating immigration law.
ICE agents can arrest people they discover to be in the U.S. illegally while searching for people on their target list. People who answer ICE agents' questions about someone else sometimes end up arrested themselves. In one case in Houston last year, a young father of five was arrested in the parking lot of his apartment building after ICE agents asked him about people who lived nearby, then demanded his identification and eventually detained him.
These "collateral" arrests can comprise a large portion of the arrests in any operation. In one December 2017 operation in northern Kentucky, just five of the 22 arrests ICE made were of people it originally targeted, according to agency documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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