PHOENIX – President Donald Trump’s pledge to have federal authorities remove millions of undocumented immigrants from the country beginning next week set off a flurry of warnings from immigration advocates to prepare families for possible deportation.
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona said Tuesday that 2 million may face deportation, a move he supports.
Trump referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a tweet Monday night, saying “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
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. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
The tweet caught people on both sides of the immigration issue by surprise. Trump, who was to officially kick off his 2020 campaign Tuesday night in Florida, did not specify how the order would be carried out.
The response from Arizona members of Congress fell along party lines, with Republican Biggs applauding the president’s announcement.
“The reality is ICE is prepared to do that. These are people that already have a removal order, and so I think that’s appropriate,” Biggs, R-Gilbert, said in Washington, D.C. In an interview on KTAR radio, he gave an estimate of 2 million deportees, saying it would apply to people who have been determined through government processes to be in the country illegally.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, in a tweet, called it “fear mongering” and said the president’s plan would rip families apart. He called instead for “real solutions that uphold our values.”
Ripping immigrant families apart to distract from failed immigration policies is nothing new for this deplorable President. Instead of fear-mongering and extremist threats, we need real solutions that uphold our values and #KeepFamiliesTogether. https://t.co/aHUm0HBeeq
— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) June 18, 2019
Fellow Democrat Ruben Gallego, who represents Phoenix, said an ICE crackdown would flood courts with parents and workers while ignoring criminals.
Biggs and other Republicans said the real threat to families comes from smugglers trafficking children.
“They’re selling these children, they’re recycling these children,” Biggs said. “If we enforced our laws, then they’re not going to try and cross the border. Those kids are going to be safer.”
Two immigration attorneys in Phoenix – Delia Salvatierra and Ayensa Millan – encouraged those who could be affected to make plans if they are removed from the U.S.
Salvatierra called the Trump announcement a scare tactic.
“I believe that this is really an irresponsible tweet because in actuality it places the Department of Homeland Security officials at risk and it heightens the danger in which they have to go out to detain individuals,” she said.
Millan said undocumented immigrants need to prepare now.
“Whether they have kids or not, contact a family member or someone they trust that can make decisions for them,” she said.
Undocumented immigrants are encouraged by the American Civil Liberties Union to know their rights, including the right to remain silent, that authorities need a warrant to search a property and the right of defendants to consult with an attorney.
Bayne Froney and Julian Paras contributed to this story.