US authorities will begin detaining thousands of undocumented immigrants and their family members in 10 American cities, fulfilling a hardline immigration stance from US President Donald Trump which will be a key issue in his 2020 re-election campaign.
The raids will be carried out by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents over a number of days starting on Sunday, the New York Times reported Thursday, citing unnamed government sources.
The unnamed officials told the newspaper that ICE agents will target at least 2,000 undocumented family members who have been ordered deported but remain in the country illegally.
ICE officials said last month that operations would target recently-arrived undocumented migrants in an attempt to discourage the growing number of Central American families crossing the US-Mexico border.
Trump said on July 5 that the mass deportation roundups would begin “fairly soon.” He postponed the operation last month after the date was leaked, but last week said it would take place after July 4.
Migrant advocates vowed their communities would be “ready” when US immigration officers come.
“They’ll be starting fairly soon, but I don’t call them raids, we’re removing people, all of these people who have come in over the years illegally,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.
Trump has made his hard-line stance on immigration an integral part of his presidency and has promised to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to curb the flow of migrants from Mexico and Central America.
Human rights advocates and Democratic Party lawmakers who have recently visited border cities say migrants were being held in deplorable conditions, with women told to drink out of a toilet.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said Monday she is “deeply shocked” at the conditions in which the US government is keeping detained migrants and refugees, including children.
Bachelet, who is the former president of Chile, said in a statement on Monday that even detaining children "for short periods under good conditions can have a serious impact on their health and development.
"As a pediatrician, but also as a mother and a former head of state, I am deeply shocked that children are forced to sleep on the floor in overcrowded facilities, without access to adequate health care or food, and with poor sanitation conditions," she said.