(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s plan to begin deporting “millions” of undocumented immigrants as soon as next week will start with people who have defied final deportation orders, acting Immigration, Customs and Enforcement Director Mark Morgan said Wednesday.
Morgan told Fox News that the process would begin with those who have had previous access to a lawyer and a court hearing but haven’t complied with the final edict. ICE will help people who voluntarily comply execute an “ordered, dignified” exit from the U.S., he said.
“We have a demographic that has had an enormous amount of due process,” Morgan said. “We’re not going to exempt any demographic.”
The president’s announcement of the plan earlier this week was seen as a signal he may be opening a new front in his war on immigration ahead of his formal his re-election campaign kickoff last night.
Trump said in a Monday tweet that ICE would begin removing migrants “as fast as they come in” but didn’t provide details about what the new initiative would entail. Morgan said Wednesday that the operation will focus on those who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain in the country.
The president has been focusing on undocumented immigrants -- one of his signature issues -- in recent weeks as he tries to make the case that voters should re-elect him in 2020.
Morgan said told CNN earlier this month that the new ICE effort could prove a disincentive for migrant families currently traveling to the U.S. who count on legal limits on the time children can be held in government custody to secure release into the country.
Trump is eager to demonstrate that he’s taking a hard line on immigration as he increasingly focuses on his re-election campaign, which he’s set to launch Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida.
In 2016, Trump won the White House with a populist message and promises to build a wall and stop flows of illegal immigration. But the president has struggled to secure congressional support for construction of his signature border barrier, and migration flows have surged in recent months as migrant families from Central America pour into the country from Mexico.
The campaign of Kamala Harris, a senator from California seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in the general election, said Trump’s tweet is evidence he wants “to rid our country of ethnic and racial groups he doesn’t like.”
“History has shown us what happens when governments begin mass roundups based on ethnic background or national origin,” Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on Mexico if the country didn’t stem those migrant flows. The U.S. ultimately relented after the Mexican government agreed to step up internal immigration enforcement efforts.
The administration has also requested $4.5 billion in emergency funds that would help address the surge of migrants at the border but not be used for wall construction.
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