- President Donald Trump said in a tweet Monday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin “removing the millions of illegal aliens” who have made their way into the U.S.
- Senior White House and ICE officials said they had already planned to ramp up their efforts, but Trump’s choice to publicly announce their plans came as a surprise.
- Some ICE officials worry that publicly announcing their usually covert operations could both endanger agents and undermine the effectiveness of their plans, though the acting director of ICE disagrees and says Trump’s tweet did not give any specifics that would put agents at risk.
- Experts and ICE officials say that even deporting one million is unrealistic, noting that ICE already lacks the resources to deal with the current influx of immigrants.
President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Monday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin “removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States” starting next week.
Following the announcement, it was reported that ICE officials were surprised by the tweet. According to reports, senior White House and ICE officials said Monday they were not aware that Trump planned to share their enforcement plans on Twitter.
Part of the reason the tweet cames as a surprise for immigration officials is due to the fact that large-scale ICE operations are usually kept secret to avoid tipping off illegal immigrants.
Announcing those kinds of plans publically could potentially jeopardize months of planning that requires secrecy to be effective.
In fact, just last year, Trump threatened the mayor of Oakland, California with criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice after she alerted her residents to a coming raid.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that both current and former ICE officials said that Trump’s unexpected tweet blew the cover for their planned operations.
The officials did not say if Trump’s tweet referenced a specific operation they were planning, but they did confirm that they are preparing to launch a new effort to take thousands of illegal immigrants into custody.
The officials who spoke to the Post also predicted that Trump’s tweet could cause immigrants who are at threat of being deported to leave known addresses in the next few days, which would make it much harder for ICE officials to find and deport people and undermine Trump’s plan to ramp up deportations entirely.
Other experts also worry that publically announcing ICE’s operations could endanger ICE agents. A former senior ICE official told a BuzzFeed News that Trump’s announcement is “putting officer safety at risk,” adding “This is not presidential. This is not leadership.”
However, the new acting director of ICE, Mark Morgan, said yesterday in an interview with PBS that he did not think Trump’s tweet put agents at risk because it did not give specifics.
“I’m not concerned,” Morgan said. “They’re professionals. They know exactly what they need to do.”
Another reason Trump’s tweet surprised ICE officials is due to the fact that ICE simply does not have the resources to arrest “millions” of people.
According to estimates from Pew Research Center, in 2017, there were about 10.5 million people who live in the U.S. illegally.
Trump administration officials have specified that the new plan will focus on rounding up the more than one million people who have been given final deportation orders, which means a judge has already ruled they should be deported.
However, even just deporting one million rather than “millions” is a huge task. For context, the record number for deportations in a year was 419,384 in 2012 under former President Barack Obama. Even then, it still took the Obama administration nearly four years to hit the one million mark.
During the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, a total of two million people were deported. In contrast, ICE deported 256,085 people in Fiscal Year 2018, according to data from the agency.
Already, Trump faces a plethora of challenges. Illegal border crossings are currently at their highest levels in more than a decade.
At the same time, deportations have gone down in recent months, according to the Post, which reported that recent ICE data showed that the agency is averaging around 7,000 deportations a month.
Right now, ICE does not have enough funding or detention space for the current level of detainees, much less nearly quadruple that.
According to the Associated Press, as of June 8, the total number of adult detainees alone was 53,141, despite the fact that the agency is only budgeted for 45,000. Ramping up arrests will just create more detainees.
To complicate matters more, there are not enough ICE agents to carry out the deportations at the rate that Trump has suggested. Currently, there are around 5,000 officers in Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), the branch of ICE that carries out deportations.
As a result, experts say that such a large-scale push would be extremely expensive and highly unlikely.
There is also the question of overall effectiveness. In order to even attempt to reach the numbers Trump suggested, agents will have to raid homes individually.
However, in those sweeps, agents work from recent addresses, which could be problematic if their predictions are true, and Trump’s announcement prompted illegal immigrants to leave their current addresses.
Agents also often do not have search warrants, so illegal immigrants are not required to open their doors. As a result, ICE agents usually capture about 30 to 40 percent of targets, according to the Associated Press.
While Trump’s annoucement may have come as a surprise, his plans to aggressively pursue mass deportations are not.
Last month, the Post reported that former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and then-acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello left the Trump administration partly because of the fact that they “challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities.”
According to Homeland Security officials, the two were concerned about the effectiveness of the plan as well as the public outrage it could cause. Trump pulled Vitiello’s nomination for ICE director back April because he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher direction.”
Already, the new acting director does seem to at least talk tougher. In his first two weeks at the job, Morgan has said publicly that he wants to increase enforcement and go after families with deportation orders.
Again, law enforcement officials are worried about the public backlash, especially when it comes to families.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press) (Fox News)
Trump Issues Over 140 Pardons and Commutations Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration
- In his last moments in office, now-former President Donald Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
- Among the notable pardons and commutations were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump megadonor Elliott Broidy.
- Trump’s final round of clemency did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reform advocates.
- Still, many also condemned Trump for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have been rehabilitated. Instead, critics feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Trump Grants Clemency
Former President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The move marks Trump’s final major act before the end of his term. Many of the most notable pardons and commutations were given to people whose names had been circulating in reports earlier this week, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as former adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon’s pardon is especially significant because he has not yet stood trial for the charges he faces. The charges against Trump’s former right-hand man center around allegations that he defrauded half a million people who donated to a crowdsourcing campaign to fund the construction of the border wall.
The leaders of the charity, aptly named We Build the Wall, had claimed that the more than $25 million they had solicited in donations would go to their goal, but prosecutors claim that Bannon took $1 million for his own personal expenses.
Bannon’s pardon is also significant because, according to reports, the reason the clemency announcements were late was because Trump could not decide whether or not to pardon him. However, as The Washington Post notes, Trump’s ultimate decision “underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers.”
Trump has recently granted pardons to several of his former top aides, many of whom seem to have a knack for committing crimes for him.
At the end of last year, he pardoned his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his close friend and adviser, Roger Stone. All three had been convicted of crimes during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In this newest batch of clemency grants, the former president also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Broidy pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws and accepting millions of dollars as part of a secret campaign to lobby the administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests.
Trump additionally pardoned a number of politicians who have been indicted for corruption, including three former Republican members of Congress and one former Democratic mayor.
Those Left Out
Trump’s last round of pardons and commutations did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reformers. One of those individuals was Chris Young, a man who had been sentenced to life for drug conspiracy, and whose commutation Kim Kardashian West had lobbied.
But in general, Trump has largely been condemned by criminal justice advocates for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have rehabilitated. Instead, they feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Despite the attention some of his pardons have received, either because they had celebrity power behind them or were controversial, Trump has actually approved fewer clemency requests than most previous presidents who served one term or less. Until this week, he had only granted clemency to 95 people.
Also of note are the controversial pardons that Trump was reportedly considering but ultimately decided against. These included WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, the latter of whom was so sure he would be pardoned that he had a limo waiting for him outside his prison.
Trump was also reportedly considering preemptively pardoning himself and his children, but he apparently decided against the move. In addition to a self-pardon being questionably unconstitutional, any clemency for the former president and his family would require them to admit they committed crimes they have not yet been charged with.
While Trump decided against becoming the first president to ever pardon himself, the fact that he decided to give clemency to so many of his allies might pose some issues.
President Bill Clinton faced both congressional and criminal investigations for giving out 140 pardons and commutations on his final day in office in 2001, though notably, no wrongdoing was ultimately found.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Accused of Leading Capitol Tour Before Insurrection
- Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN Monday that he and another lawmaker personally saw GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert guiding a “large” group of people around the Capitol days before the insurrection.
- Numerous representatives have said they saw GOP members leading an unusual amount of tours before the riots. They also said some of the visitors were involved with the rally that preceded the attack.
- Boebert preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week before any official accused her by name.
- She reiterated that denial in a statement responding to Cohen’s accusations and claimed that she had only ever given a tour to members of her family.
Rep. Cohen’s Claims
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.) said Monday that he and a fellow Democratic member of Congress personally witnessed Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) leading a “large” group of people around the Capitol complex in the days before the violent attacks on Jan. 6.
While speaking on CNN, Cohen said that he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) “saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.”
“I don’t remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her,” he continued. “Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know.”
Notably, Cohen said he did not know who was in the group or if they were part of the attack. That fact was also echoed by Yarmuth, who confirmed in a statement that he did see Boebert with a group of people around her but added that he “has no knowledge of who they were or if they were with her.”
Over the last few weeks, dozens of Democrats have been demanding that officials investigate whether or not Republican lawmakers aided in the riots. Last Tuesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) told reporters she saw some of her GOP colleagues leading “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol with people who she later saw during the riots.
The following day, 31 House Democrats signed a letter claiming they and some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol on Jan. 5.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” they wrote. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
Boebert’s Checkered Record
Until Monday, no lawmakers had named any of the members involved in the alleged tours, but many outlets and political analysts both implicitly and explicitly tied Boebert to the accusations.
In her roughly two-week-long tenure as a member of Congress, the young Republican has received significant heat for her role in the insurrection among other recent, controversial moves.
Last week, Boebert was temporarily banned from Twitter and faced numerous calls to resign for tweeting out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location during the insurrection.
She has also been widely criticized for publicly announcing she would bring her gun to the Capitol complex, refusing to have her bag searched after she set off a metal detector, and voting to invalidate millions of votes by objecting to the certification of the electoral college.
In fact, Boebert has faced so much scrutiny that she preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week, even before anyone directly named her. At the time, she issued a statement saying she has only ever given a tour to her children, husband, mother, aunt, and uncle.
Boebert reiterated those claims in a letter to Cohen Monday, where she called his remarks “categorically false.”
“I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group,” she wrote. “As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the U.S. Congress.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (CPR News)
Washington, D.C. Ramps Up Security Before Inauguration
- Officials in Washington are ramping up security measures and imposing heavy restrictions ahead of the inauguration Wednesday.
- The National Mall has been closed down since Friday, barricades have been put up all over the city, car traffic has been limited, and many public transit routes have also been shut down.
- Around 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed from across the country, and the FBI is vetting all of them due to concerns of an insider attack.
- Security has also been significantly increased in many state capitals nationwide following calls for armed protests in all 50 states, but so far, most of the protests at statehouses have been peaceful and exceptionally small.
Capitol Increases Security Measures
With two days to go until the inauguration, security has been massively ramped up in the nation’s Capitol.
While the inauguration is usually a high-security event, Washington has now instituted security measures not seen since the Civil War following a Jan. 6 insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol. Intelligence agencies have since warned about more threats of violence.
In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service announced Friday that the National Mall — which usually hosts massive crowds during the inauguration — will be closed until at least Thursday. The inaugural ceremony itself will also be scaled down due to both security threats and the pandemic.
Various barricades ranging from small metal barriers to tall fencing reinforced with heavy concrete blocks have been set up around the Mall and in other parts of the city, such as at federal buildings and businesses.
The Capitol complex itself, which will be entirely shut off to the public on Wednesday, is currently surrounded by a 7-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Over a dozen metro lines will be shut down and more than two dozen bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter. Car traffic in most of the city will be either banned entirely or limited exclusively to residents and businesses only. Several bridges that connect DC to Virginia will also be shut down, and all street closures are subject to change or to be extended at the discretion of the Secret Service.
In addition to the wide variety of military and law enforcement personnel who are normally involved in inauguration security, around 25,000 National Guard troops have also been deployed from all across the country.
That is nearly two and a half times the number present for previous inaugurations. Notably, officials have been vetting all 25,000 coming to Washington because they are worried about an insider attack.
States Ramp Up Security
It is not just D.C. that is ramping up security. There have been mass deployments of the National Guard and other law enforcement officers to state Capitols all across the country. According to The New York Times, 19 states have deployed their National Guards following calls for armed protests in all 50 states.
So far, most of the activity that has been seen around statehouses are small, peaceful demonstrations by a few people, some of whom are armed. Even the most attended rallies had two dozen people or less.
Notably, all of the largest demonstrations documented so far have reportedly been held by or included members of the Boogaloo Boys, a far-right group that wants to start a second Civil War. The group showed up in some of the highest numbers in front of the Capitol buildings in Ohio, Michigan, and Utah.
As was the case with all of the other demonstrations so far, the protestors have been far outnumbered by security officials — and in some cases, spectators.