Days before the launch of his ‘Trump for Latinos’ campaign in Miami, President Donald Trump postponed immigration raids today planned to begin Sunday on migrant communities across the country.
Immigrant advocates, the families and people they aim to protect, law enforcement officials and governments across the nation had all been preparing for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to conduct large-scale raids, after Trump threatened to “deport millions,” earlier this week. Then in tweets on Saturday, Trump first maintained that only people who were given notice to leave because of their status would be detained, then dropped plans entirely, citing a two-week deadline for U.S.-Mexico border policy.
Vice President Mike Pence is also scheduled to be in Miami, one of the 10 cities where ICE planned to conduct its operations, for the ‘Trump for Latinos’ campaign to embrace Hispanic voters.
Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, said while the postponement may provide some “reprieve,” though “not a solution,” he does not doubt the optics of Pence campaigning in Miami while the raids were still happening was “likely a factor” in Trump’s decision to postpone.
“I think what the President also realized was that ICE didn’t have the logistical ability to carry off what he wanted to carry off,” Wenski said, noting that ICE detention centers across the country are full. “To do this would be to divert resources from the border, so he runs the risk of making things worse.”
South Florida is home to the country’s second largest population of immigrants resettled from the southern border. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will also be there Wednesday and Thursday for their first party debates.
“I think it would be good for [Pence] to be here and take the temperature of the people,” Wenski said. “They might learn something.”
Wenski noted that Venezuelan exiles there who fled dictatorship under Nicolas Maduro have “been asking the [administration] for months for temporary protected status, and the administration has so far refused.”
News of the raids came within a week of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signing into law a measure that prohibits local police in Florida from declining to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez reacted to the prospect of raids with a statement that Miami is “city of Immigrants.”
“I trust that only those individuals who represent a clear and present danger to our communities will be affected by this DHS policy,” Suarez added.
But Wenski, an outspoken opponent of several past president’s immigration policies, including former President Obama, had less confidence, warning the Church’s Miami area pastors in a letter Friday.
He wrote that the people the administration says it is targeting, “may not even know that they have been ordered removed because they never received notice of the hearing.”
Wenksi also said families who just got there will likely already have ICE case managers, which would have provided the agency with immigrants’ home addresses and contact information.
The Trump Campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the Vice President’s trip to Miami, ICE operations or the “Latinos for Trump” rollout.
As Trump’s deadline approaches, Maureen Porras, Managing Attorney at the non-profit organization Church World Service in Miami, which provides legal counsel on immigration issues, said her office is preparing to assist those arrested in the raids.
Porras said it’s still unclear “exactly how quickly” ICE would begin the deportation process for those individuals, and whether they will have access to legal services.
Asked what he thought about the overlap in timing between Pence campaigning for Hispanic votes and potential ICE raids, Wenski said there is “always a risk for anyone with an irregular [immigration] status.”
“He’s coming down to pay attention to the Hispanic community that has a vote and hopefully that population will convey to him that we need a better immigration system for everyone in this country,” he said.