CHICAGO — A nationwide immigration enforcement operation targeting people who are in the United States illegally is expected to begin this weekend after it was postponed last month by President Donald Trump, according to two administration officials and immigrant activists.
The operation, which has sparked outrage and concern among immigrant-rights advocates, would target people with final deportation orders, including families whose immigration cases were fast-tracked by judges in 10 major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. As many as 6,000 people could be detained, many in danger of deportation.
"Our communities have been in constant fear," Estela Vara, a Chicago-area organizer said Thursday at a rally outside the city's Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) offices where some activists chanted "Immigration Not Deportation!"
Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued the following statement regarding the operation:
“As a Welcoming City, Chicago will never tolerate the threat of ICE forcing our residents and families to live in fear. Earlier this month, Mayor Lightfoot was definitive in her directive to CPD not to cooperate with or facilitate any ICE effort to target migrant families, and we will continue to object to any planned raids this weekend. The City continues to work closely with community groups and other organizations in the face of this latest threat and to continue defending the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities who call Chicago home."
“A lot of these issues regarding immigration and the fear and uncertainty about what’s happening is falling disproportionately and harshly on our children," Lightfoot said.
The sweep remains in flux and could begin later, according to the administration officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Still, activists ramped up efforts to prepare by bolstering know-your-rights pocket guides, circulating information about hotlines and planning public demonstrations. Organizers estimated that a rally planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at Daley Plaza would draw around 10,000 people.
The operation is similar to ones conducted regularly since 2003 that often produce hundreds of arrests. It is slightly unusual to target families, as opposed to immigrants with criminal histories, but it's not unprecedented. The Obama and Trump administrations have targeted families in previous operations.
But this latest effort is notable because of the politics swirling around it.