Word had gotten out among a network of immigrant advocacy groups that the federal government was ready to execute this month a nationwide sweep of undocumented immigrants on a scale no one had seen before.
The planned Operation Mega was to target somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 immigration arrests in one fell swoop, immigrant advocates feared, but as the news got out U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday that any such plans were on hold.
The agency said it was forced to scrap any immediate enforcement plans while the federal government’s resources are tied up in recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and preparations for Hurricane Irma in Florida.
“While we generally do not comment on future potential law enforcement actions, operational plans are subject to change based on a variety of factors,” read a statement issued by ICE. “Due to the current weather situation in Florida and other potentially impacted areas, along with the ongoing recovery in Texas, U.S. 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.”
Word of the plans had leaked to national immigrant-advocacy groups, which were preparing to relay the message to members of their organizations across the country, as they had heard Sept. 17 was the target day for the operation.
Those groups were concerned that the parents and sponsors of unaccompanied minors in the country illegally and any immigrants with pending deportation orders would be targeted for removal. They also worried that other members of a targeted household who had fallen out of legal status could be detained according to previous statements issued by the administration of President Donald Trump.
A joint advisory to affiliated groups issued this week by the Detention Watch Network, the National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, United We Dream and the Women’s Refugee Commission called the operation “a wholesale and escalating attack on all immigrants” and encouraged immigrants to review their safety plans and know their rights.
“If an immigration agent knocks on your door and does not have a warrant, do not open the door,” said a statement from Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, a Chicago-based organization which provides legal services and advocates for immigrants.
Activists on Long Island were aware of the threat, said Walter Barrientos, Long Island organizer in the Brentwood office of Latino-advocacy group Make the Road New York.
“If it wasn’t evident to anyone, it’s clear now that the administration has an all-out attack on immigrant communities,” Barrientos said Friday.
It was unknown how many people could be targeted for immigration arrest on Long Island and New York City.
Any respite in continued enforcement is temporary, the agency made clear.
“For the safety and security of our communities, ICE fugitive operations teams will continue to target and arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws, in non-affected areas of the country, as part of routine operations,” ICE’s statement said.