Donald Trump announces two-week delay on planned family deportation raids

Hugo Lowell
Donald Trump delayed planned raids but vowed deportations if asylum laws were not changed - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Donald Trump delayed weekend immigration raids across the United States on Saturday but threatened deportations in two weeks if Democrats failed to agree changes to the law on asylum.

The announcement by the US president was made on Twitter after he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who asked Mr Trump over the phone to cancel the expected raids.

Mr Trump reportedly made no commitments during the 12-minute call but ultimately bowed to Ms Pelosi's request, though he made clear he would continue to use deportations to pressure Democrats .

“At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks,” Mr Trump posted, before adding that if there was no progress, “Deportations start!”

Raids that threatened family separation have faced widespread criticism Credit: Getty

Ms Pelosi also issued a statement calling on the cancellation of raids. She later tweeted: “Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.”

Before Mr Trump’s reversal, immigration agents had been planning to swoop into several US cities including Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago on Sunday to detain illegal immigrants in pre-dawn raids.

Mark Morgan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who won his job by pushing for deportations on Fox News, has said family raids would act as a deterrent.

Mr Trump had tweeted: “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."

But the raids planned for the weekend had drawn condemnation because even though they are not uncommon, they targeted adults with children and raised the possibility of family separation.

Top officials within the Department of Homeland Security had also expressed concern over the operation, given severe overcrowding at the limited-capacity family detention facilities.

With his last minute-stall and threats, Mr Trump suggested he was hoping to pressure Democrats in Congress to make changes to the law surrounding asylum they had long previously resisted.

There are several bills on immigration currently being considered, including a proposal to send $4.5bn in aid to the US southern border. Some Democrats had threatened to withhold support over the raids.

And a similar measure in the Senate that carried both Republican and Democrats' support came with the caveat that none of the $4.6bn in that bill would go toward the raids scheduled for Sunday.

Going ahead with the family raids ran the risk of imperiling the measures and jeopardizing the emergency money that the Trump administration had requested from Congress, Democrats said.

The Trump administration has faced record numbers of migrant families illegally crossing the southern border, causing difficulties for a president who campaigned on reducing illegal immigration.