President Donald Trump said Monday night that his administration is preparing for a major assault on immigrant communities, a threat that triggered accusations of ethnic cleansing and increased fears over the long-term goals of the White House border agenda.
"First, children in concentration camps at the border. Now, ethnic cleansing."
"Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States," the president tweeted. "They will be removed as fast as they come in."
The raids will specifically target families, The Washington Post reported Monday night:
The family arrest plan has been considered even more sensitive than a typical operation because children are involved, and Homeland Security officials retain significant concerns that families will be inadvertently separated by the operation, especially because parents in some households have deportation orders but their children—some of whom are U.S. citizens—might not. Should adults be arrested without their children because they are at school, day care, summer camp or a friend’s house, it is possible parents could be deported while their children are left behind.
"If they really do this," tweeted Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith, "it'll be unimaginably horrific."
The plan, reportedly developed by Trump and advisor Stephen Miller, the administration's most enthusiastic anti-immigration voice, has been in the works for months. The plan was so controversial that it is believed to have played a role in the departure of then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen from the administration in April, though, as Common Dreams reported at the time, Nielsen's issue with the policy seemed purely based on effectiveness, not morality.
Azadeh Shahshahani, a Georgia-based immigration rights attorney, told Common Dreams Tuesday that immigration advocates would have to be prepared to do what was necessary to resist the planned assault on undocumented people and immigrant communities.
"Trump's outrageous threats are meant to instill fear in immigrant communities and must be forcefully condemned," said Shahshahani. "As Americans strongly protested heartless family separations last summer, we must continue to stand up to the white supremacist dictates of this administration and provide sanctuary to migrants fleeing persecution."
In a statement provided to Common Dreams, ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok framed the president's directive as part of the agency's mission.
"The border crisis doesn't start and stop at the border, which is why ICE will continue to conduct interior enforcement without exemption for those who are in violation of federal immigration law," said Rusnok. "This includes routine targeted enforcement operations, criminals, individuals subject to removal orders, and worksite enforcement. This is about addressing the border crisis by upholding the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system, as created by Congress."
The planned raids may be hamstrung by both a lack of capacity in the agency to fulfill the president's directive and what The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer described on Tuesday as a lack of competence on the part of the administration.
"Which doesn't mean they have not, or will not, do immeasurable damage," said Serwer.
Immigration advocates expressed their concern over the raids and, more broadly, the administration's escalation of its war on immigrants.
"First, children in concentration camps at the border," Grist reporter Eric Holthaus said on Twitter. "Now, ethnic cleansing."
"We cannot bear to turn a blind eye to atrocities happening in our names as Americans any longer," added Holthaus.
The overwhelming horror of the Trump plan, said journalist Elizabeth King, is taking all of her attention.
"There's a million different things going on and they’re all urgent but I can think of nothing other than the upcoming raids," King tweeted.
In comments to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) accused the president of avoiding dealing with real issues by targeting minorities, and said next week's raids were part of a strategy to both distract and sow disunity.
"He will try to divide the American people up and he will go after minority people—in this case undocumented—who have very little political power," said Sanders, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. "That's what demagogues always do."
One of Sanders's opponents in the primary, former Vice President Joe Biden, has expressed his faith that if elected president, he can work with Republicans.
Trump, who ran on a virulently anti-immigration platform, regularly enjoys approval ratings around 90 percent in his party.