After NBC News reported a planned Department of Homeland Security roundup of thousands of illegal immigrants, the agency announced it would cancel the raids.
Described as being “the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE,” the plan was set to target upward of 8,000 unauthorized aliens.
However, after an NBC expose, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE said its raids would be called off in light of 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,” said ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez. “Due to the current weather situation in Florida and other potentially impacted areas, along with ongoing recovery in Texas, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had already reviewed all upcoming operations and 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.”
According to NBC, the raids were scheduled to take place over a five-day period slated to begin on September 17th.
The media outlet speculated in a recent article that the unusually higher number of targeted immigrants could be the result of pressure for the agency to reach a deportation goal by the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. That postulation was backed up by an NBC source from within the agency.
Ostensibly, the purpose of the raid was to arrest and remove illegal immigrants who had previously been convicted of violent crimes or who are suspected of participating in gang activities.
In practice, ICE has been inflicting an increasing amount of “collateral damage,” detaining undocumented aliens who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – even if they themselves had no criminal record.
The operation, which was codenamed Operation Mega, was purportedly focused solely on crime and would not have been aimed at juvenile offenders or illegal aliens under the age of 18.
NBC notes that the decision to cancel comes as controversy rages over President Trump’s cancelation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants renewable work and residency permits to immigrants who arrived to the United States as children and can pass a background check.
David Lapan, a spokesman for the DHS, said that the department would not actively pursue non-criminal immigrants who declare their status or are discovered in the course and aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.