(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said people who will be apprehended by immigration agents starting next week are being deported for defying orders to return to their home nations after breaking the law to enter the U.S.
"They have to be removed from the country. They will be removed from the country," Trump told reporters outside the White House on Saturday about raids. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents may be targeting about 2,000 people in 10 cities, including Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore, according to media reports. Trump said he didn't know how many people would be involved.
In an earlier tweet, the president said the government had grounds to take action.
"The people that Ice will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported," he said on Saturday. "They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying." Trump added that people coming to U.S. illegally "will be DEPORTED!"
Agents with ICE are reportedly preparing to carry out raids in major cities this weekend, after Trump announced a new push aimed at undocumented residents in a June 17 tweet: "Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States."
ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan on Friday said the agency sent letters to more than 2,000 migrants in February, urging them to report to authorities or leave, according to an interview Friday with NPR. Not many appeared, he said, without discussing specific plans.
"So what are our options?" he said in the interview. "They've had due process, they've had access to attorneys, they've had access to interpreters," Morgan said. "We have no choice."
The House Committee on Homeland Security wasn't given details about the planned raids, or alerted that they would be happening, several Republican officials said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly. The Washington Post reported the plans earlier Friday.
It's the latest effort by Trump to restrict undocumented migration -- either by curbing arrivals at the border or cranking up deportation efforts. Trump has also pushed to add a citizenship question to the census, which critics warn would scare off non-citizens from participating, skew the count and weaken the political clout of immigrant communities.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Trump acknowledged some cities "are going to fight" the ICE actions, but he said those cities are "generally high-crime" cities. Officials in three communities said they would refuse to cooperate with any roundup of migrants.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot condemned the Trump administration over the planned raids and said she'd ordered police to cut federal agents' access to databases related to immigration enforcement activities. Lightfoot said she'd told ICE officials that the Chicago Police Department "will not cooperate with or facilitate any ICE enforcement actions."
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on ABC said political statements about rounding up immigrants "stokes fear and panic" in the community. "We are not an extension of ICE...I do worry about the intimidation it can create," he said.
In Los Angeles, Police Chief Michel Moore said his department won't help federal agencies with the arrests, which he said could target 140 people, citing the possibility of heightening fears in parts of the city. "We know how unsettling and scary this is for the community," Moore told the Los Angeles Times.
Mexico, facing Trump's threat of new tariffs, agreed this month to send National Guard soldiers to its border with Guatemala in a bid to slow the flow of migrants from Central America, through Mexico, to the U.S.
Trump has said that deal has prompted a "night-and-day" difference, and on Thursday thanked Mexico for its efforts, but also warned of new punitive measures if migration levels aren't reduced. On Saturday, he said Mexico has been "really good" on the border since the deal.
The U.S. government has not released migration data for June, though numbers typically slump in the summer.
--With assistance from Kim Chipman.
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