House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday warned her caucus about President Donald Trump’s planned immigration raids this weekend, urging members to spread information about undocumented immigrants’ legal rights.
Speaking to a closed-door whips meeting, Pelosi urged members to spread the party’s “know your rights” campaign, according to two people in the room. Democrats took the same approach earlier this year, when faced with the Department of Homeland Security’s initial threat of mass deportation raids.
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Those mass arrests, first reported by The New York Times, are expected to begin Sunday in nearly a dozen metro areas. The raids — which are backed by Trump — had initially been delayed after disagreements within the administration.
Pelosi also told members that she plans to reach out to religious leaders to encourage them to oppose the efforts, as she did last month when Trump first threatened the raids, one person said. Pelosi also spoke to Trump by phone last month and urged him to call off his plans.
Democrats have sharply criticized the White House’s plans, which would target not only individuals who failed to appear in court, but also any unauthorized immigrants who happen to be at the scene — possibly affecting family members or others who were not originally targets.
Pelosi later told reporters she thinks evangelical groups played a significant role in Trump’s decision to call off the initial raids and she hopes they’ll chime in again.
“They were very concerned that this goes too far because these raids were not what they signed up for with President Trump. And I think their calls to the president made a difference,” Pelosi said. “Hopefully the president will think again about it or these groups will weigh in once again.
“Families belong together,” she said. “Every person in America has rights.”
Thomas Homan, a former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement who retired in June 2018, told POLITICO Thursday that he had only heard about planned enforcement actions from news reports, but that he supported the effort.
“I really don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. But what I will say, I think it should happen,” he said. “One of the reasons these Central American families keep coming is because they don’t see anyone coming home.”
Homan said that families who had been ordered deported by a judge should be removed to ensure integrity in the immigration system. Otherwise, he said, “you might as well just open the border up and let everybody come in.”
Last month, Homan — who Trump recently said would become a “border czar” in his administration — suggested acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan opposed an earlier family arrest effort and had leaked information to the press to delay it. Homan’s comments came amid a broader hard-line effort to oust McAleenan, who took over the secretary role in April.
McAleenan denied the leak accusation to Fox News days later and cited his responsibility to protect ICE officers. He added that even families must face consequences if ordered removed from the U.S.
One former Trump DHS official said McAleenan had a longer-term, more strategic view of how to proceed with immigration enforcement. Congress will soon be tasked with passing a bill that funds the department in fiscal year 2020 — and broad outrage over family arrests could make it harder to secure money for detention beds and other enforcement tools.
“They have to think about all of that,” said the official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “And I think Kevin is more attuned politically to what it all means.”
ICE operates three family detention centers with 3,326 beds, which limits the capacity to hold families. However, a significant amount of that space is currently available.
The largest of those facilities — a detention center in Dilley, Texas — has 90 percent of it 2,400 beds free, according to an agency spokesman. And a 96-bed facility in Berks County, Pa., is roughly a quarter full.
Another family center in Karnes City, Texas, is currently being used to house only adult female detainees, according to ICE.