A Trump administration official confirmed Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will specifically target for deportation as many as 1 million people “who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges yet remain at large in the country.”
President Donald Trump made the original announcement Monday night in a tweet.
“These judicial removal orders were secured at great time and expense, and yet illegal aliens not only refuse to appear in court, they often obtain fraudulent identities, collect federal welfare, and illegally work in the United States,” the administration official said in an email. “These runaway aliens lodge phony asylum claims only to be no-shows at court and are ordered removed in absentia.”
When asked how many people there are in Florida with deportation orders, ICE told the Miami Herald to reach out to the White House, which then said to contact the Department of Homeland Security, which then told the Herald to circle back with ICE, which told the Herald to file a Freedom of Information Act request, a process that traditionally takes months or years.
The agency, however did offer a general statement: “The border crisis doesn’t start and stop at the border, which is why ICE will continue to conduct interior enforcement without exemption for those who are in violation of federal immigration law. This includes routine targeted enforcement operations, criminals, individuals subject to removal orders, and worksite enforcement. This is about addressing the border crisis by upholding the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system, as created by Congress.”
Trump’s overnight announcement sent immigrants spiraling into panic, South Florida attorneys say.
“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” said Miami immigration attorney Sandy R. Pineda. “My clients are selling their stuff, and hiding inside their homes. Some have even asked me questions about guardianship for their children. Who will take care of them if they’re deported? Where will they go?”
Other attorneys say they are the ones making the calls.
“You can’t tell a client to obstruct justice, but we have been on the phone all day warning them that ICE is going to engage in mass deportation,” said Tammy Fox-Isicoff, a South Florida immigration lawyer.
“Reality is, where are they going to put these people? There is no space,” she added. “When you get picked up for removal, you don’t get taken to an airport, you get taken to a detention center. But those are all full. So where will they go? In tents? On the streets?”
ICE would not comment on Tuesday on where deportees will be detained.
Those who have final deportation orders would have been issued a nine-digit alien number and an order from a federal judge. People can check their status by calling the Department of Justice’s automated system at 1-800-898-7180.