Trump Threatens To Deport 'Millions,' As He Kicks Off Campaign For Reelection

Jun 18, 2019
Originally published on June 18, 2019 1:36 pm

Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET

On the day of his self-declared presidential campaign kickoff, President Trump is threatening to deport "millions" of immigrants in the United States illegally beginning "next week."

But what's known is far less definitive.

The administration is predicting that with increased help from Mexico, it will have more bed space at detention centers. So the administration is planning to prioritize going after recent arrivals who have not been showing up to court, according to an adviser to the Department of Homeland Security.

The enforcement action is not for people who have been in the country long term but is more focused on the people who just got to the country and skipped court dates.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, who is in regular discussions with the administration, said people have been led to believe that if they arrive with a child, they will be able to stay. She said that won't be the case under this new plan.

"It's not like the president just woke up and thought of this idea," Vaughan said. "They've been laying the groundwork for this already. What they've been doing has not been successful, so they're going to be trying something new. And they're going to be focused on people who already have a final order of removal. And they also want people to understand that family cases are on the table."

There are more than 1 million immigrants in the U.S. with orders of deportation who have not been removed, according to an administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the policy, noting that "countless" numbers of people are skipping court hearings and "absconding from federal proceedings."

Referring to them as "runaway aliens," this official said that they "lodge phony asylum claims only to be no-shows at court and are ordered removed in absentia."

The official added: "There are more than 1 million illegal aliens who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges yet remain at large in the country. These judicial removal orders were secured at great time and expense, and yet illegal aliens not only refuse to appear in court, they often obtain fraudulent identities, collect federal welfare, and illegally work in the United States. Enforcing these final judicial orders is a top priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement — willful defiance of our laws and the defrauding of the American People with fraudulent asylum claims will not be tolerated."

Trump administration officials believe threats and potential action could serve as a deterrent. Others have doubts, especially as the number of border apprehensions have increased despite the administration's hard-line family separation policy that has since been scaled back.

Immigration advocates warn that families could again be separated in the kind of broad, hard-line action the president seems to be promising.

ICE officials have been stretched dealing with increased border crossers, and the administration is hoping that the deal with Mexico to ramp up enforcement at its southern border will have a domino effect that will free up bed space in detention centers and could allow ICE agents to do more interior enforcement.

Trump is holding a rally Tuesday night in Orlando, Fla., a key state in his reelection hopes. The president used immigration as a key cultural touchstone during the 2016 election to fire up his base of supporters.

: 6/18/19

A previous photo caption incorrectly said the Orlando rally was Monday. It will be held on Tuesday.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Last night in a tweet, President Trump appeared to promise a new crackdown on people who are in this country illegally. He wrote, and I quote, "next week, ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in," end quote. ICE, of course, is Immigration and Customs Enforcement. NPR's White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez has been following all of this.

Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi. How are you?

KING: Good, thanks. So is the president suggesting some sort of change in policy here?

ORDOÑEZ: It is a new - it has always been a priority, but this is a new push. This is definitely an effort to kind of meet some of the frustration that President Trump has had for a while about the increasing numbers of immigrants coming in. His new acting director of U.S. intelligence - pardon me - U.S. ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Mark Morgan has walked in the door, saying that he is going to start going after some of the families of these immigrants who have been coming across the border.

KING: One of the things that's interesting is, generally, ICE prefers to keep these kind of operations secret, don't they? It just makes it easier, I would imagine, to find people if they don't know you're coming.

ORDOÑEZ: Absolutely. This is the kind of thing that usually - that you don't talk about. You don't want to let those who are going to be targeted know. But also, let's also remember that this is a campaign. There's a campaign kicking off. There is supporters that Trump wants to meet. Look. When he started his campaign back in 2016, he used immigration to launch his campaign. He is launching his reelection campaign now, and here's another avenue for him to kind of give information for his supporters, to kind of excite his base with an issue that has always been his bread and butter.

KING: Yeah, you're making a good point. The president is relaunching his - is launching his reelection campaign today, holding a big rally in Orlando to kick it off. We've been reporting on this all morning. So it seems to you as though this tweet is part of that.

ORDOÑEZ: It seems extremely likely that it is. There is no coincidence of the timing here. This is an issue, as I said, that President Trump has always gone back to in the times that he is frustrated, that he is looking to kind of garner excitement among those who support him. He is in Orlando. He wants something that is going to excite his base.

Let's also remember that he has been very frustrated by the immigration numbers that have been happening. They have been going up, hence why we got into this battle with Mexico in recent days and almost struck a trade war. Now he has a new ICE director who is promising to do more on immigration. I was just talking with the White House today, who told me that there are a million immigrants who are in the country who have orders of deportation who've not been removed.

KING: So, Franco, just very briefly, what does this mean for deportations? They going to increase?

ORDOÑEZ: It means a lot more deportations. There is hope that Mexico will help out. And now they'll have more bed space to put these new people.

KING: NPR's White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Franco, thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.