- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2019

Trump administration officials sought Sunday to cool the heated rhetoric over anticipated immigration sweeps, arguing that enforcing deportation orders is routine — and occurred with greater frequency under President Obama.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway declined to discuss operational details but said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “does this every single day” and pushed back against the description of such actions as “raids.”

“ICE does this every single day. Law enforcement in this country enforces the law,” Mrs. Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s a tautological definition of their duties. And this, of course, happened under President Obama. He was referred to as ‘deporter in chief’ very harshly in 2012.”

President Trump told reporters Friday that the apprehensions would begin Sunday. About 2,000 immigrants living illegally in 10 cities facing deportation orders after having had their cases adjudicated and deportations ordered were expected to be targeted.

About 3 million people living illegally in the U.S. were deported during the Obama administration, hitting a high of about 409,000 in fiscal 2012. The Trump administration has yet to exceed 300,000 deportations per year, according to Homeland Security Department figures posted by Axios.

Mr. Obama “pushed back on actually Telemundo, a Spanish language station when they criticized him, and they said, you’re deporting 184,000, quote, noncriminals, and he said, ‘I’m not a king, I have to enforce the law,’” Mrs. Conway said.

Citing former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, she said that “these are not extraordinary actions.”

“Your appeals have been exhausted. Your rights have been adjudicated. These are final removal orders for people who are here illegally, and ICE is going to do what they do every day, which is go ahead and enforce the law,” she said.

Even so, the deportations were condemned by Democrats including Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who said Mr. Trump’s announcement was “about scaring everyone in the country.”

“If you wanted to go after security risks and there are people who are security risks, why would you alert them and say you’re doing this on a Sunday and do it two weekends in a row?” Ms. Klobuchar asked on ABC’s “This Week.” “Why? Because you want to make news, right?”

Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, New Mexico Democrat, said the White House should focus on rounding up felons “as opposed to children and the families.

“People whose only decision may have been to come to the country and the way that they did, but are working in restaurants as chefs, they are teaching our kids in schools, they’re serving in our military. … I think that the president should concentrate his time on the criminals, not on those families,” Mr. Lujan told “Fox News Sunday.”

Administration officials reiterated that repeat offenders are indeed their focus.

Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said the priority with deportations is apprehending “criminal aliens” — those who have committed additional crimes after entering the country illegally.

“But also, part of that priority is to also go after and apply consequences and enforce the rule of law to those individuals who had due process and received a final order of removal from a judge, and they still remain here illegally,” Mr. Morgan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “To maintain integrity in the system, we have to apply consequences to everyone.”

Whether the sweeps took place on Sunday was unclear. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had received reports of three ICE enforcement operations, but none resulted in detentions or arrests.

“We’ve followed up on every report today and so far have no confirmed ICE activity,” he tweeted Sunday afternoon.

Although New York has been called a sanctuary city, Mr. de Blasio said he would support removing dangerous criminals, but “unfortunately the Trump administration is no longer believable on these issues.”

“They said they were going to do immigration enforcement, and what we’ve seen is so inconsistent,” Mr. de Blasio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They’ve gone after folks who’ve committed no crime, who have had no proceeding against them.”

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, also refused to divulge specifics but emphasized that “ICE’s everyday job … is enforcing the law Congress passed.”

“We’ve got compassionate, loyal ICE agents who are just doing their job,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “And it shows you how far we’ve fallen in that it’s become news that they would actually go deport people who have removal orders.”

He stressed that such aliens are not undocumented because “they’ve got a court order on a piece of paper, a federal order that says they’ve gotten due process.”

Democrats have decried reports of poor conditions at overcrowded detention centers, calling them inhumane, while Mr. Cuccinelli said the system is overwhelmed because Congress has failed to provide agencies with the tools they need, such as closing the “asylum loopholes.”

“Congress has let it happen. It’s that simple,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

More than 100,000 migrants have been detained in each of the past four months, and “people really claiming asylum with no basis, just totally fraudulently, are clogging a system for legitimate asylum seekers,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

Immigration advocates have called for letting asylum-seekers enter the country rather than remain in substandard facilities, and then trust them to return for their hearings, but Mr. Cuccinelli said the problem is that “many of them never show up.”

Those remaining in detention centers always have another option: “They can also go home,” he said, “which is our preference.”

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