WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump gave Democrats two weeks to work on immigration reform and stem the flow of migrants at the southern border, but cast doubt on getting action from Congress and vowed to go ahead with a roundup of people facing deportation.
“I want to give the Democrats every last chance to quickly negotiate simple changes to Asylum and Loopholes,” Trump said in a tweet on Sunday, referring to laws he’s seeking to change. “Probably won’t happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke by telephone with Trump Friday night, asking him to call off the raids, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Pelosi said the delay was welcome. “Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform,” she tweeted.
Officials in some cities where raids were planned protested and vowed noncooperation. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’d ordered police to cut federal agents’ access to databases related to immigration enforcement activities. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on ABC said rounding up immigrants “stokes fear and panic” in the community.
Trump began last week with a vow to begin deporting “millions” of undocumented migrants, focusing on one of his signature issues as he tries to make the case that voters should re-elect him in 2020. He’s also putting pressure on Democrats, who’ve been using a funding bill they hope will block his immigration policies. Trump faulted their plans on Sunday.
“If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it’s good politics, everything would be solved immediately,” Trump said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that was taped Friday and broadcast Sunday.
“But they refuse to do it. They refuse to do it. You know what? If they change those, I say, I used to say 45 minutes. It’s 15 minutes. If they changed asylum and if they changed loopholes everything on the border would be perfect.”
Trump delayed the raids, planned to start Sunday, “at the request of Democrats,” although immigration officials suggested that reports on the timing of the actions played a role.
In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Vice President Mike Pence disputed a suggestion that Trump lost the element of surprise by announcing the raids in advance, and was instead motivated more by political reasons. Pelosi, he said, has indicated she’s willing to discuss more humanitarian resources at the border.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been poised to start attempting to round up about 2,000 people in 10 cities, including Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore, according to multiple media reports.
An immigration official on Saturday suggested that reports of the timing of the actions had played a role in the postponement. “Any leak telegraphing sensitive law enforcement operations is egregious and puts our officers’ safety in danger,” ICE spokeswoman Carol Danko said in a statement.
The raids are the latest effort by Trump to restrict undocumented migration — either by curbing arrivals at the border or cranking up deportation efforts. Trump has also pushed to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census, which critics warn would scare off noncitizens from participating, skew the count, and weaken the political clout of immigrant communities.
Mexico, facing Trump’s threat of new tariffs, agreed this month to send National Guard soldiers to its border with Guatemala in a bid to slow the flow of migrants from Central America, through Mexico, to the U.S.
Trump has said that deal has prompted a “night-and-day” difference, and on Thursday thanked Mexico for its efforts, but also warned of new punitive measures if migration levels aren’t reduced. On Saturday, he said Mexico has been “really good” on the border since the deal.
Pence echoed the president on Sunday. “In last 10 days, Mexico has done more to secure our southern border than Democrats in Congress have done in the last 10 years, and that has to change,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The U.S. government hasn’t released migration data for June, though numbers typically fall in the summer.