US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials planned to conduct sweeping raids targeting 8,400 undocumented immigrants in “the largest operation of it’s kind in the history of ICE,” according to an NBC News report published Thursday.
The report, which cited three law-enforcement officials and an agency-wide internal document, revealed that the raids, dubbed “Operation Mega,” were scheduled over a five-day period starting on September 17.
However, after NBC News’ report, ICE officials said they had “adjusted” the upcoming operations in light of severe weather from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“While we generally do not comment on future potential law enforcement actions, operational plans are subject to change based on a variety of factors,” ICE spokesman Sarah Rodriguez said in a statement, cited by NBC News. “Due to the current weather situation in Florida and other potentially impacted areas, along with the ongoing recovery in Texas, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had already reviewed all upcoming operations and has adjusted accordingly.”
“There is currently no coordinated nationwide operation planned at this time. The priority in the affected areas should remain focused on life-saving and life-sustaining activities.”
The operation was planned since mid-August and directed officers to target gang members or people guilty of serious crimes, according to an official. However, other undocumented immigrants who weren’t suspected of crimes could still be taken into custody as “collateral,” the official said according to NBC. Individuals protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were not at risk of deportation until at least March 5, 2018 when the program is due to expire if Congress fails to enact legislation creating a permanent replacement for the program.
One official said that Operation Mega’s target of 8,400 undocumented immigrants represented a portion of the agency’s overall deportation goal it wanted to reach by the end of its fiscal year on September 30.
ICE has conducted nationwide raids throughout several presidential administrations. Although raids were still conducted under President Barack Obama’s administration, ICE was limited by regulations that prohibited collateral arrests and was focused primarily on specific suspects.
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