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Trump delays ICE deportation raids hours after defending them

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump on Friday evening asking him to call off the raids. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

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The move had sparked a fierce backlash from Democrats, immigration advocates and civic leaders — alongside concern among some ICE officials.

President Donald Trump on Saturday delayed for two weeks the administration’s plans to begin deporting thousands of undocumented families — reversing himself just hours after defending the controversial proposal.

“At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon.

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The confusion surrounding the proposed raids, which were due to begin Sunday in more than a dozen cities, was the latest episode in which Trump threatened tough action, only to pull back. Last week, he said he had authorized limited strikes against Iran before canceling them shortly before they were due to launch.

The plan by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport up to 2,000 families who have missed a court date or have been served deportation orders prompted an outcry from Democrats and law enforcement officials in several U.S. cities.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump on Friday evening asking him to call off the raids, according to a source familiar with the conversation, which lasted about 12 minutes.

But Saturday morning, Trump defended the proposed action on Twitter, saying, “The people that Ice will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported.”

“This means that they have run from the law and run from the courts,” he wrote. “These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country. They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying.”

During a press gaggle later in the morning, he again gave no indication of the impending delay. Trump acknowledged cities “are going to fight” federal immigration policies but added that they are “high-crime” cities, without offering further justification.

But Saturday afternoon, he changed course, citing Democrats’ requests.

It was not clear what exactly spurred him to back off. ICE was officially notified of the president’s decision only hours before Trump announced the delay, according to one administration official.

A former DHS official told POLITICO that some ICE officers had pushed back on the planned raids after they were made public because of officer safety concerns and child welfare issues. It was not immediately clear, however, whether those concerns reached the White House.

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The officer safety concerns were related to the level of publicity around the actions, the former official said.

An ICE spokeswoman also appeared to link the president’s decision to the safety of immigration enforcement authorities, suggesting that leaked details preceding removal operations could jeopardize their safety. The spokeswoman did not address Trump’s own tweets from earlier this week, however, when he broadcast a forthcoming ICE operation.

The tweet on Monday appeared to reference a long-planned operation targeting families and unaccompanied minors who turned 18. POLITICO reported Friday that ICE planned to begin raids Sunday and target major cities.

The specific welfare concerns were encountering U.S. citizen children, who may need to be transferred into someone else’s custody if their parents are detained. Other concerns were children hiding in closets and not being found and parents fighting back, the former DHS official said.

Operations targeting families can be difficult to execute, according to Leon Fresco, a former Obama Justice Department official.

“There could be a newborn baby, who knows,” he said.

Following Trump’s announcement of the delay, Pelosi tweeted: “Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.”

In a statement released earlier Saturday before Trump’s delay announcement, Pelosi had called the raids “heartless.”

“Families belong together. These families are hard-working members of our communities and our country. The President’s action makes no distinction between a status violation and committing a serious crime. It is important that the President and our immigrant communities know that they have rights in America,” Pelosi said.

Cities had also pushed back against the plans. Chicago is refusing to share law enforcement records with ICE agents, while Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson has ordered the CPD to not participate in the deportation raids.

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young issued a statement on Friday denouncing the move and reminding residents of their legal rights.

“I am deeply disturbed by the President’s recent comments around immigration and even more troubled at the reports of increased immigration enforcement,” Young said in a statement.

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva also issued a statement opposing the raids.

“I strongly oppose President Trump’s threats of mass deportations on Twitter and television. His actions are irresponsible and unnecessary if in fact the President is truly concerned with removing violent undocumented felons to ensure your public safety,” Villanueva said in a statement.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus Center condemned the planned raids in a statement Saturday, saying a delay “is not enough” while calling on the administration to “abandon this cruel and reckless approach.”

“Mass raids will only terrorize immigrant communities and separate families. These raids will do nothing to solve the humanitarian crisis the Trump Administration created at our border and they will waste millions in taxpayer dollars.”

Kerri Talbot, the director of federal advocacy for the D.C.-based Immigration Hub, said in a statement: “First Trump holds Dreamers hostage to try to force Congress to erect new barriers to refugee status. Then he tried to use family separation to get these changes. And now he’s going to threaten people for two weeks with raids. This president is sick and inhumane.”

Trump announced the deportation plans Monday on Twitter, the night before his re-election campaign kickoff in Florida.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people,” Trump wrote.

Acting director of ICE, Mark Morgan, subsequently said there were no plans to deport “millions” of undocumented migrants, a number that alarmed many agents.

Ted Hesson, Heather Caygle and Gabby Orr contributed to this report.

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