President Trump on Friday defended immigration sweeps in Mississippi targeting illegal immigrants, saying he wants to send a message that people entering the country illegally will be deported.
“I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they’re getting out, they’re going to be brought out,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “And this serves as a very good deterrent.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials rounded up more than 650 suspected illegal immigrants this week at seven food processing plants in six cities in Mississippi. More than 300 of them had been released by Thursday, an ICE spokesman said.
Congressional Democrats started an investigation of the sweeps late Friday. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and two subcommittee chairmen requested documents from the Justice and Homeland Security departments and asked for a briefing.
“We are concerned by reports that these enforcement actions … left many children — on their first day of school — separated from their parents and terrified because they did not know where their parents were taken and detained,” the lawmakers wrote. “It appears that these DOJ and ICE enforcement actions are targeting only immigrant workers and not their employers. We are alarmed by the potential serious chilling effect of these enforcement actions close in time to these workers vindicating their rights to a safe working environment.”
Mr. Trump said deterrence is “a big factor” in the sweeps, to warn people in Central America against traveling in caravans to surge the U.S. border.
“They may get in, although we’re being very tough, but they may get in, but it doesn’t matter,” Mr. Trump said. “Because they’re going out. And when people see what they saw [Wednesday], like they will see for a long time, they know that they’re not staying here.”
The president acknowledged that he has considered proposing a compromise with Democrats that would merge immigration reform with gun laws that are being considered in the wake of last week’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
“If the Democrats would change the laws, what I was thinking about putting together, as you know, with the gun situation, so we have immigration, and we have let’s say some of the things that we’re talking about right now [on gun control], you have them together,” Mr. Trump said.
The president praised Mexico for its recent efforts at reducing illegal immigrants reaching the U.S. border from Central America.
“We have the numbers way down right down, because Mexico has done a fantastic job,” he said. “Mexico has 26,000 soldiers right now on the border. They have been fantastic, because of [U.S.] tariffs, but I don’t care what it’s because [of]. I’ll be calling the president at a certain point, I just hope they keep it up.”