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Nationwide Immigration Raids That Were Ordered By Trump Didn't Happen


President Trump's promised roundups of immigrants apparently have not happened - yet. The administration promoted big raids to begin on Sunday. Mass arrests, however, did not materialize. So what did happen over the weekend?

NPR's John Burnett covers immigration and is on the line from Austin, Texas.

Hey there, John.


INSKEEP: What have you been hearing?

BURNETT: Well, we've heard about very few arrests. You know, we were told to expect ICE agents to conduct these targeted enforcement operations against migrants who have an outstanding deportation order. Remember, ICE hates the term raids. They say these are not random roundups. They're targeting migrants who crossed the southern border recently; their cases were expedited, a judge turned down their asylum request and now they're removable. And immigrant advocates have been telling migrants all week, warning them you don't have to open the door to ICE agents unless the agents have an administrative warrant, which they usually don't have.

INSKEEP: Any indication that perhaps immigration authorities calculated that moving at the very moment when the president said they would move was probably not the best to operational security?

BURNETT: Well, it's hard to say. Law enforcement doesn't generally inform the world that they're about to, you know, pile out of the van, show their badges and come for you. President Trump was the one who announced this deal to let his supporters know his crackdown on unauthorized migrants is still going strong. The problem with this operation, Steve, is that agents hate going door-to-door because it can be such a waste of time. I mean, I've gone on a raid with them before in the Dallas area. It's labor intensive. Immigrants are often not there. The agency says it's dangerous for their agents.

And even if the target is there, as the lawyers have been telling them throughout Trump's entire administration, you don't have to open the door. We had - there was a reporter at WNYC, she talked to an eyewitness who said three ICE agents showed up at the locked entrance to an apartment building in Brooklyn on Saturday morning in search of one of these deportable migrants. They were shouting, open the door, but no one did. And the eyewitness said they went away. ICE prefers to arrest migrants already in custody at a county jail or coming out of a courtroom.

INSKEEP: Oh, where they can know exactly where they're going to be and when...

BURNETT: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...They're going to be there. So I'd like to figure out, if these raids were to happen - and I guess we should note they could still happen - if they would be that much different than what's been happening before. This is an administration that has focused on removing people in the United States illegally wherever they can. The previous administration also did a lot of that...


INSKEEP: ...And these are people with deportation orders. So what would be so different about these raids if they were to come?

BURNETT: Well, what's different about it and what's so controversial this time around is that these are families with no criminal convictions. These are all families who've been crossing the border in these large numbers seeking asylum. And Trump wants to send a message that you can't just skip immigration court, dissolve into the country and live here indefinitely. He wants to scare off migrants thinking about coming north.

And apprehending migrant families can be complicated. Mom and Dad can be here illegally; their children can all be U.S. citizens. And if you arrest the parents, what do you do with the kids? So expect pictures on social media of kids being marched into ICE vans along with their parents. And now we just heard that the Marriott Corporation, the biggest hotel chain in the country, has told ICE, under pressure from advocates, their rooms are not appropriate for detention and they don't want federal officers holding children in their hotel rooms as backup detention facilities.

INSKEEP: Is that a thing that has happened or that could happen?

BURNETT: Well, just because the raids didn't start yesterday does not mean they won't get rolling later this week. Immigration lawyers say they'll be closely monitoring ICE arrests and they'll be ready to help migrant families headed for deportation. And remember, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued in federal court to block this operation, saying that the migrants who were targeted didn't get fair treatment in immigration court. So that's pending, too.

INSKEEP: And I guess they won't be held in a Marriott - whatever happens to them - if they're arrested.

John, thanks so much.

BURNETT: You bet, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's John Burnett. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.