WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that raids over the weekend aimed at immigrants who had been ordered deported were “very successful” even though much of the activity was not visible to the public.
Trump had vowed to launch mass deportation roundups over the weekend, causing immigrants and their advocates to brace for large numbers of arrests, but by Sunday evening there were only reports of low-profile operations in a few cities.
“The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids were very successful,” Trump told reporters at a White House event. “People came into our country illegally ... Many were felons. Many were convicted of crimes.”
“Many, many were taken out on Sunday - you just didn’t know about it. ... It was a very successful day but you didn’t see a lot of it. ... Every person taken out had papers and we had court orders,” Trump added, without offering any evidence to support his statement.
Reporting over the weekend suggested the ICE raids were narrower in scope than had been anticipated. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were three ICE operations in his city on Saturday. There were unconfirmed reports of ICE actions in Denver and Miami.
“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting ICE Director Matt Albence told Fox News on Sunday when asked for an update.
Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large Southern cities such as Atlanta.
There also were no reports of arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to give legal advice at the country’s largest family migrant detention centre in Dilley, Texas.
The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries.
The Trump administration said on Monday it was implementing new rules for immigrants seeking asylum, requiring them to first seek protection from a third country.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Andrea Ricci