(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump put off for two weeks the start of a planned nationwide roundup of undocumented immigrants, tempering a vow made earlier Saturday to have them “removed from the country” starting next week.
Trump said he was acting “at the request of Democrats,” although immigration officials suggested that reports on the timing of the actions played a role.
The delay will give time “to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “If not, Deportations start!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke by telephone with Trump Friday night, asking him to call off the raids, according to a person familiar with the discussion. An hour after Trump disclosed his decision, she tweeted her response.
“Mr. President, delay is welcome,” Pelosi said. “Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been poised to start attempting to round up about 2,000 people in 10 cities, including Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore, according to media reports. Trump said the raids were to start in the coming week.
The Washington Post first reported on the timing of the potential raids on Friday. “Any leak telegraphing sensitive law enforcement operations is egregious and puts our officers’ safety in danger,” ICE spokeswoman Carol Danko said in an emailed statement on Saturday.
As he left the White House early Saturday for meetings at Camp David, Trump said the people to be apprehended had defied 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.
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. Not many appeared, he said, without discussing specific plans.
“So what are our options?” Morgan 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.”
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.
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.
(Updates with ICE statement in seventh paragraph.)
--With assistance from Kim Chipman and Laura Litvan.
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